But what exactly IS it?
Alexa is built into so many appliances being demonstrated at IFA this week, you need a map* to them all. Basically it's everywhere, and on a global scale appears to be decisively winning the platform battle with Google. So it's no surprise that Huawei's first attempt at cracking the European consumer electronics business …
"Alexa, how much food has gone off since I went out on the lash last Tuesday?"
"Welcome home, Rich 11. I'll put it this way: you don't want me to open the fridge door."
(There's a HAL9000 pastiche in there somewhere, but I'm too hungover to write it.)
Short of asking the fridge door to open, there isn't much you'd want to "ask" or "tell" a fridge
How about to clean* itself?
* Dirk Gently and his Housecleaner will know what I'm talking about.
Until they manage that, I'll stick to something 'dumb'. At least it's still easy to buy a fridge without 'smarts' unlike TVs.
"With fixed-line broadband becoming something your grandpa complains about" implies that mobile broadband is so ubiquitous that anyone can get it anywhere at any time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unless & until coverage is *actualy* available anywhere at any time to anyone on any device, fixed line wired connections will continue to be the best way to get online. Especially if you aren't so filthy stinking rich that you don't care that your carrier charges by the byte & throttles you back to dial up speeds because you're suddenly sharing the same tower as half a million other subscribers all trying to go online... You know, like what happens at a train station when the train comes in & everyone tries to check their messages? Or when a natural disaster strikes & everyone & their grandmother's dog is trying to call their aunt Gloria to say they're ok/ask for help in GTFO of the shitstorm/ask where another relative has gotten off to? Because those towers tend not to work too well when they're swamped with customers or standing water after that monsoon... I think you get the point.
Back in the days when I worked for a telco we used to joke we had some of the most expensive and sensitive seismometers ever built - because even on the tiniest quakes the system would light up to stupidly high loads no matter what time of day or night thanks to people phoning each other to ask "Did you feel that?"
It was usually taken as read in all Civil Defence exercises that all telephony systems were out due to overload, along with most landmobile ones for the same reason - regardless of whether the infrastructure had actually survived whatever event was being simulated.
...but like all Things* it is listening in, programmed to mentor you into continued loyalty to the Bezo-Maze, while you merrily drudge your days away garnering yet a few more pennies to exchange for some more shiny trinkets from the maze.
Things* should be pyramid shaped, with an eye on either side.
* Internet things ie. talking fridges, glorified toasters with legs, all that stuff.
On a more practical note, as personal assistants go, they all still fall short of some basic requirements: they stil can't make coffee*, change a lightbulb, or restock the fridge with beer...
*proper coffee, in a pot, not from a pod.
If innocent consumers trying to buy home electronics for one purpose find it increasingly infected with monitoring devices, there will be a growth market for countermeasures—by which I mean, going beyond any manufacturer's "promises" that you can opt-out, or that they won't really be listening because you asked them nicely, or that the mic is really off-switchable, or in fact trusting a single word on the subject of personal privacy or respect for your rights uttered by the likes of Google, Amazon, Facebook and the rest of the vampires.
I can see this ranging from clumsy guarantee-busting physical switches, through neater methods like magnetic or tilt switches (place device at 10° incline, mic and camera connection severed) all the way to subliminal noise generators which sit next to the suspect device and act to cancel voice sounds, or clutter the spectrum, or even feed in constant sotto voce gibberish. Perhaps the network-minded will find ways to block packets containing outgoing audio data from specific devices (hm, could be extremely tricky to implement). It'll go beyond the piece of tape stuck over your webcam.
Indeed, how long before the boxes are emblazoned with "Super High Res, Ultra Shiny, Surround Audio, PLUS Certified Free of Surveillance Technology"?
Some of this Alexa-type crap would be a tremdnous boon to folks with disabilities, but are we otherwise too lazy or incompetent to tap a screen or type a few characters? While absolutely anyone could be watching and listening to your family in every room of the house?
No, I can't see how large it is. There isn't a single thing I can use as scale on that first picture. The second one has apparently some fleshy bit on it I interpret as a hand, but I'm not sure. As far as I know, that iThingy could well be sitting on a regular 1 meter diameter kitchen table, which would make it frikkin' huge.
The next time you want us to "see", chuck a ruler next to it.
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