Alexa on Fire

The letter AHere are my impressions of the Kindle Fire’s Alexa implementation. It has some features that a smart speaker can’t provide.

It shows what it understands. When you ask a question, the service displays the text of your query. It also shows the text that it speaks back to you.

I was surprised that the Fire also shows a graphic relevant to your question. A question about cheese shows a graphic of cheese on a cutting board. I asked for the name of the mayor of Auburn, Indiana and it displayed the Auburn city logo. My search for the mayor of Indianapolis retrieved a photo of him.

I didn’t explore the quirky questions that you can ask. I also haven’t used it enough for the software to dial in on recognizing my voice, so I was frustrated with some errors when I tried to use it as a calculator.

It isn’t clear how much curation of the answers is done by a human analyst.  My search for the mayor of Auburn, Indiana returned with the wrong name. The display shows that the name came from Wikipedia and I just corrected the Wikipedia page. It will be interesting to see how long it takes Alexa’s data repository to reflect that. Will someone need to check the citations first?

I am interested in where the information came from. I’ve seen the results explain that  information came from Reuters, reference.com, Getty or Wikipedia. Sometimes the attribution is spoken in the answer. At other times, it is in a small note on the display.

Unfortunately, the results can attribute information to Wikipedia that is not available there. For example, the sodium content of Velveeta cheese is not available on Wikipedia, even though the answer claims it is.

Alexa on the Fire is useful. I’ve been hesitant to get a smart speaker and this is a demo of some of what I could have. The most consistently useful feature I found so far is the weather.

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