The idea of an ambient AI had been around for a while, but it was only in 2015 that Alexa became a reality with the launch of Amazon Echo smart speakers. The voice-controlled devices—powered by Alexa—have become extremely popular since launching in India in 2018.
From ordering products online to playing music and podcasts, setting timers and alarms to controlling smart home appliances like lights and AC, Alexa has made the everyday lives of several individuals easier than ever.
As Alexa turns five in India, some long-term users of the AI talk to us about their Alexa-assisted lifestyles.
“Alexa interacts with my pet cat, Zooby”
Sharon’s closeness with Alexa began a year ago when she was on the lookout for a voice-enabled speaker. She invested in an Echo device thanks to its array of features, and soon began a playful relationship with the AI that also helped her cope during moments of loneliness. From setting reminders for her personal and professional commitments to simple commands like, “Alexa, turn off the lights”, Sharon’s everyday life has become infinitely manageable. However, what truly captivated Sharon was how Alexa interacted with her pet cat Zooby. By just saying “Alexa, play some animal sounds”, Sharon engages her cat with playful activities and enjoys watching her being inquisitive about the sounds. Animal sounds via Alexa have become a steady source of entertainment for Sharon and her friends, filling their home with joyous moments of laughter.
“Alexa books your cab and even tells you the OTP!”
Among the first users of an Alexa-enabled device in India, Saidarshan snagged a smart speaker for himself through an exclusive invitation. Being visually impaired, Saidarshan relies on Alexa for a number of everyday tasks like booking a cab, placing a call or even asking Alexa the news bulletin. His favourite feature on Echo Dot is the Prime Music library and Audible integration. Alexa has played a crucial role in helping him indulge in great audio experiences. Adds Saidarshan, “Alexa also has a skill for Gmail, so I’ve integrated my inbox with Alexa to read out my emails. From playing word games to answering fun facts on history, Alexa has brought a lot of tech-enabled ease and fun to my life.”
“I asked Alexa if she was married”
Kalra has been using Alexa through his Echo Dot 3rd Gen for two years now, and started conversations by asking a lot of questions. “Did you know that Alexa gets really sarcastic with some questions?” he laughs, recalling an instance where he asked Alexa if she was married. Alexa promptly answered, “let me ask you three questions first and if you answer them correctly, I will think about your proposal” – this gave the family a heartfelt laughter. It’s because of little moments like these that Alexa has become more than an AI for Mohit. He also describes how Alexa helped his family during the COVID-19 lockdowns. “Lockdown was a difficult time for all of us; there was dark news across the world. Alexa often helped us disconnect from the outside world and reconnect with ourselves”, he says.
“Alexa has helped me become energy conscious”
Madhura had always struggled with forgetting to switch off the lights when leaving a room—a habit that made her feel guilty about wasting electricity. When she was gifted an Alexa-enabled device a little over a year ago, her habits became greener and more conscious, thanks to setting up reminders to switch off the lights when not in use. Alexa has since also helped Madhura resolve friendly fights during house parties and quiz games.
“My daughter trusts Alexa with her homework”
It was only when her young daughter started interacting with Alexa that Vineeta Kalra understood the true potential of the AI. When her daughter, then two years old, started picking up words due to her continuous interactions with Alexa, Vineeta was not only surprised but also quite inspired. What started as simple commands gradually resulted in an effective learning process. Alexa began playing the role of a teacher during homework time, helping the mother and daughter to fact check assignments, and eventually enabling Kalra’s children to develop faith in Alexa.
When asked about a fun encounter with the Echo device, Vineeta remembers a family get-together. She recalls, “We had a family get-together at our home and we decided to play a quiz game amongst ourselves. Whenever there is a quiz game, some people tend to cheat. To avoid this, we started asking Alexa the right answers whenever there was any confusion. As the answers were spoken out and loud, nobody could cheat, which became a source of laughter for the rest of us.” According to Vineeta, it is in such moments that the digital assistant adds life to any party.
From playing nursery rhymes to engaging pets, Alexa has become a trusted companion for several people. The AI has handled daily chores, become a not-so-silent member at a party, and even regaled people with its wit. Alexa has transformed into a family member, and its story in India continues to evolve with every customer!