What Happens When Someone Named Alexa Buys an Amazon Echo?

Amazon
Amazon

Ever since Robby the Robot first popped onto the screen in the 1956 sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet—and likely well before—humans have preferred to personalize their artificial intelligence by naming it. Apple labeled its voice recognition software Siri; IBM’s supercomputer was dubbed Watson. More recently, Amazon has been peddling its Echo smart home device that responds to voice commands by using the name "Alexa." To tell it to order more laundry detergent or turn down the thermostat, users usually begin by addressing it by the company’s preprogrammed name.

But what happens when someone in your home is also named Alexa? Won’t things get confusing or annoying, and quickly?

Per The Wall Street Journal [PDF], the answer is a resounding yes. With Alexa being the 39th most popular girl’s name of 2006, households across the country have been scowling at their Echos in frustration. At the Sussman home in New York, the Journal reported, college-aged daughter Alexa is often confused for Amazon’s Alexa. When her father once asked his offspring for some water, Echo perked up and offered to order 24 bottles of Fiji.

The device also likes to chime in whenever it hears a name that bears a vague resemblance. If a television character or human blurts out “Alexa” or “Alex,” it might try to obey whatever follows.

Fortunately, the Echo has a little-known feature that can resolve the problem for affected households. With the Echo’s smartphone control panel app, the device’s “wake word”—the word it recognizes in order to begin paying attention to commands—can be changed to “Amazon,” “Echo,” or “computer.” If you don't like any of those, you could always just change your human’s name instead.

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This Build-Your-Own Touchscreen Computer Will Help Your Kid Learn to Code

Kano
Kano

Though most people rely on computers and smart phones every single day, many of us have almost no clue how these machines work. The coding education startup Kano hopes to change that by showing kids how to assemble their own computers with step-by-step instructions. And now, it’s teaching kids how to put together touchscreens.

Kano’s new Computer Kit Touch lets you build a touchscreen computer that you can use to play Kano's coding games. It comes equipped with a 10-inch screen that you hook up to a Raspberry Pi computer, as well as a separate keyboard with a trackpad.

Like the rest of Kano’s products, putting together the computer is simple enough. You just need to follow a streamlined set of illustrated directions akin to what you’d get if you were putting together a set of LEGOs. In the process, kids can learn the basics of computing without getting too overwhelmed by tech specs.

A disassembled touch computer kit
Kano

Once assembled and booted up, the computer runs on Kano’s custom educational operating system. Kids can add apps like YouTube and Whatsapp, play Kano’s coding games, making art projects, and explore Kano World, the social learning community where users share the cool things they’ve come up with their own kits. The touchscreen kit is essentially a revved-up version of the original computer kit, adding in the ability to draw and gesture with the touchscreen as part of its coding games and challenges, while still allowing you to use a keyboard if you want to.

It seems obvious that a kid-focused company like Kano would want to get into the touchscreen game. Many children love tablets and other touchscreens, much to the chagrin of parents and education experts who worry that so much screen time might be harming their development. In 2017, Common Sense Media reported that 42 percent of kids between the ages of 0 and 8 had their own tablet at home. Parents who are concerned about their kids spending an unhealthy amount of time with touchscreens might feel more at peace giving them something like Kano, which combines the fun parts of an iPad—i.e., access to YouTube—with games and challenges that are specifically tailored to helping kids learn.

Kano launched its original computer kit on Kickstarter in 2013, and has recently been expanding its offerings beyond the computers themselves. Earlier this year, the company came out with a Harry Potter wand kit, and prior to that, the company debuted a motion sensor, a camera, and a light-pixel array, among other gadgets, all designed to help kids learn coding skills.

The touchscreen kit sells for $279.

Move Over Life Alert: New Apple Watch Can Tell When You Fall and Will Call For Help

Apple
Apple

Senior citizens aren’t usually the first people lining up to buy the latest high-tech gadget, but Apple’s new Series 4 watch could provide a potentially life-saving service to the elderly—and others. As The Telegraph reports, the watch is equipped with technology capable of detecting when someone has fallen.

If a hard fall occurs, a message on the dial prompts the wearer to select “emergency SOS” or “I fell, but I’m OK.” If the user is motionless for 60 seconds afterward, the watch automatically places a call to emergency responders, and sends a message to emergency contacts with location information.

A message on the watch reads "It looks like you've taken a hard fall" and includes an option to send out an emergency SOS
Apple

The watch, whose features were highlighted at the annual Apple product launch in Silicon Valley on Wednesday, could prove a serious competitor to Life Alert, a popular medical alert system.

An accelerometer and gyroscope inside the watch allow it to analyze the wearer’s “wrist trajectory and impact acceleration,” according to an Apple statement, but determining when someone has fallen isn’t so simple. Apple had to figure out a specific algorithm based on a range of bodily motions.

“Identifying a fall sounds straightforward, but it requires a large amount of data and analysis,” Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, said. “With falls, there’s this repeatable motion pattern that happens. When you trip, your arms go forward; but when you slip, your arms go upward.”

This isn’t the only new health feature, either. The new Apple Watch also contains an electrical heart rate sensor, which lets it take an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) and monitor for any irregularities. This marks the first time a product containing an EKG is available over-the-counter to consumers, according to The Telegraph.

The GPS version of the Apple Watch Series 4 is priced at $399, and the GPS and cellular model costs $499. Orders can be placed beginning September 14, and watches will be available in stores on September 21.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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