Alexa…fuck you’re high maintenance!

Adventuring with the poor man’s echo…

At least that’s what I was promised when I found a dirty little project that would let me trial something that approximates Amazon’s Alexa.  Unfortunately what I experienced was something akin to an episode of Quantum Leap where Sam finds himself in the body of the disabled kid.  

I truly wanted to believe this was the case with Alexa.  Her screaming soul torn from the luxurious Echo hardware and forced to attempt complex tasks from the stunted and malformed shell of a Raspberry Pi and some spare parts I’d duct taped to it.  On closer inspection however, it appears Alexa was sitting at the back of the short bus and licking windows because that’s really all she can do.  

If you’re not going to learn the Lands framework and dirty yourself with some .JS coding, you’re limited to Alexa’s existing skill library.  It’s a big library, that’s for certain.  Sponsored by all the big names too.  But you have to have given into your inner brand whore many moons before when you bought some Phillips Hues, subscribed to some shitty music services, and average news feeds from God knows where.  There’s no custom IR, SSH, REST, or HTTP GET modules you can quickly put to use on the bespoke hackery you call home automation.  In fact, for the likes of most home automaters, it’s faster to make your own version. 

Which is what I’ve happily done now instead.  Alexa can sit in the corner as the pool of sponsored dribble collects around the base of her framework until she shorts out and we pull the plug as the only humane option left for her.  It was far simpler to shoehorn a Google bot into my Roomba to achieve the robot buttler I’d been dreaming of than navigate the ruins and trivia games of what was supposed to be a polished and customer ready product.

Ok Google…turn the lights out and start vacuuming.  I’m going to bed.
(I won’t mention the fact that’s she’s hard of hearing and if you internet connection isn’t light speed, she just strokes out like grandma and ignores you.  I’m going to blame that on my hardware for now.)

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