On New Year’s Eve, my brother gave me an Amazon Echo Show. I was less than thrilled with the gift because voice recognition technology has only given me frustration. A red flag went up in my head and I told him to send it back.
Voice recognition technology in the past often led to wasted time repeating dictation and correcting inevitable mistakes. Off and on throughout the years, I have unsuccessfully “trained” Dragon NaturallySpeaking and Apple iOS Siri to understand my voice.
Thank goodness my brother didn’t listen to me. He just said, “Give it a try, Alexa can be your voice recognition office assistant.”
He helped me activate and set up my new device with my Amazon account, then I gave a random command: “Alexa, play Taylor Swift” and it fulfilled my request. Alexa voice recognition works straight out of the box.
I quickly learned that I can play music, check the weather, listen to the news, play verbal games, view movie trailers, and much more with just a voice command. Over the following days, I downloaded some Amazon-related apps (i.e. Amazon, Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Music, Amazon Photos, Amazon Kindle, Amazon Alexa, Audible) to enable Alexa to link with my Google and iCloud accounts, so I can access them automatically. Now, I can manage my accounts in half the time it takes me to do on my computer.
As a writer, I constantly need to check the spellings and definitions of words, often having to rely on someone else for assistance. Now, Alexa can do it for me. During a busy day, I ask Alexa to add tasks to its built-in to-do list and create events on my calendar. (The shorter and more specific the phrase describing the task or event is, the better. Alexa doesn’t understand long commands.)
I can set reminders, alarms, timers, and schedules throughout the day. Also, I have discovered that I can do many things described above from bed if I don’t feel like getting up.
However, Alexa has its limitations. It can’t take direct dictation, but I’ve found a way around that by interacting with my device.
I say, “Alexa, check my email” to open the account.
Alexa asks, “What do you want to do?”
I say, “reply” and dictate.
When finished, Alexa asks, “Do you want to send your reply?”
I say, “send” or “yes.”
Another limitation is that Alexa doesn’t receive commands if Wi-Fi is down, so I have to be mindful of when the internet connection is lost in my apartment.
Although no technology is perfect, I have unlocked increased independence and efficiency with Alexa, which has become my “voice recognition office assistant.”
I would encourage anyone who has had similar voice recognition technology challenges to try an Amazon Alexa enabled device. It may just make your day in more ways than one.
Cristina Cortez has quadriplegic cerebral palsy and is a first generation Latin-American poet born to immigrant parents. She holds an honors BA in English and history from Hofstra University and a Masters in Fine Arts in creative writing and poetics from the University of Washington Bothell. Her thesis is cross-genre memoir Unbound about living life with a disability. Her work has been published in I Come From the World Literary Journal (Summer 2017) and she was a speaker at TEDx Everett (March 2017). Email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.