Amazon Puts the Eye of Sauron in Your House

Amazon just announced a weird cylindrical thing called Echo that you talk to in your house. Here’s their awkward ad.

Here are some of my knee-jerk responses to this.

On the device:

In the short term, it looks ridiculous. A big fat cylinder that resembles an air purifier or an ashtray that does what your smartphone already does, which is always with you. The very fact that you use your smartphone to set it up and tinker with it spells out how redundant this seems. Yes, there are kids who don’t have smartphones (one hopes) who might like to talk to the Echo, but it doesn’t seem to me to justify a standalone device.

In the long term, I get it. This a step toward the Star Trek Enterprise-computer, the personification of our homes. This is certainly where things are headed, and it remains an open question as to whether the computing power of that entity will be in our pockets, on our wrists, or in a standalone device.

At first blush, I don’t immediately see any reason for almost anyone to buy this. But soon we’ll all be using something like it. Amazon wants to have its Eye-and-Mouth-of-Sauron in your house before Siri or Android get there.

(By the way, I asked my 4-year-old boy to name the Siri-like Google Now voice on my phone, and he immediately said, “Hershey!” Perfect, right?)

On the ad:

It’s terrible. It’s like a parody of an ad for an embarrassing product. SNL’s “The Love Toilet” seemed more sincere and practical. I can’t believe how 1950s this family is. Dad makes the decisions, wants the news, asks questions about mountains. Mom cooks and doesn’t understand the technology. And dad also seems like kind of a condescending jerk.

All in all, strange, strange times, my friends. Or, as Chris Hutton said on Twitter, “Amazon: first company to sell you the mics they use to listen to you.”

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