Stories From NYT Readers About Their Use of Amazon Alexa Devices

Hanna Ingber, New York Times:

We decided to ask readers how they use and interact with Alexa and how the technology fits into their lives. Nearly 200 people in the United States and Europe responded.

Those who relied on the voice assistant said they used it mainly for mundane tasks such as setting timers and checking the weather. Many said they had grown attached to Alexa and missed it when they were away. Most said they did not use Alexa to help them with shopping. Others told us, just as emphatically, that they would never use an Alexa device.

Amazon U.K. released a list of commonly asked questions in 2022 and its use has not much changed from a 2018 survey. If anything, the 2022 list of frequent requests makes it sound often like a children’s toy, with nursery rhymes topping the most requested songs to be sung and a top ten list of farts.

The stories relayed by Ingber which I found myself most struck by are those from or about elderly people who use their voice devices for all kinds of tasks large and small. I am sure Amazon knows about these uses, but it highlights for me how little sense it makes to offload this kind of care to businesses that can pull the plug at any time. I do not blame any of the individuals here — Ingber includes the story of someone who uses Alexa devices to help take care of a parent with dimentia — but it is upsetting to know a loss-leading product could be discontinued and leave these users abandoned.