“About a Squillion” and Other Great Answers

Like so many others since Christmas, we now have a new member of the family. A new baby? No. New pet? No. Her name is Alexa.

At first the children seemed indifferent to our Amazon echo spot until they realised that they, too, could bark orders at Alexa: “Alexa, sing happy birthday!” “Alexa, tell me a joke!” Alexa’s jokes aren’t very funny, but the boys seemed to think she was hilarious. And it wasn’t long before they discovered Alexa’s “Simon says” feature. As long as you say “Simon says” first, Alexa will then repeat anything you say.

From the next room, I could hear them saying: “Alexa, Simon says Mummy stinks!” and then laughing hysterically when she calmly announced: “Mummy stinks”. They then worked their way through everyone in the family and guess what? Everyone stinks!  But even I was impressed when she answered some difficult maths questions and was then asked if she could spell

“supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, dutifully spelling it out while displaying a picture of Mary Poppins …

We’ve mostly used Alexa for music, which has been great as you can be as generic as you like – Alexa has a range of musical genres in her library. You can even switch off expletives. There’s no need to worry about leaving the kids alone in the same room. “Is Father Christmas real?” I hear my 8-year-old asking Alexa in a heart-stopping moment. “All I know is that someone has been eating my mince pies and Father

Christmas seems like the type,” she says. Phew.

Yes, we work Alexa pretty hard. You can change her name to either Amazon or Echo if, like my friend, someone in your family is actually named Alexa. “How old are you Alexa?” is the next one out of the bag. “In human years, I’m four,” she tells my six-year-old, “but in nanoseconds I’m about a squillion.”

Another great response.

Take it to the next level and Alexa will wake you up in the moring with your favourite tune, add to your shopping lists, control the lights and generally organise your life for you. You might even miss her when you go on holiday. 

“Would you like to come to Centerparcs with us Alexa?” I find myself asking her.

“I’m sorry – I don’t have an opinion on that,” she replies. She seems to say that a lot, though this just might be me forgetting she’s not actually a real person. 

BY CATHERINE LAWLER