Amazon’s Alexa is the first experience most people have with modern-day artificial intelligence. The virtual home assistant is voice-activated and can do anything from making phone calls to telling you the weather. Updating calendars, making shopping lists and reading emails are all part of Alexa’s tasks, which she handles with a cheerful albeit robotic voice.

While Alexa may be a staple in many homeowners’ lives nowadays, is there anything for potential buyers to worry about? After all, the perils of letting AI into our daily lives have been long foretold by science fiction. The good news is that Alexa won’t go rogue, but there are some things to know before you decide to purchase your own.

Pros

Alexa is smart, responsive and can streamline many tasks that would typically cause you to spend half an hour or more on your phone. You can connect it to other smart systems as well, allowing you to activate lights, turn on the TV and play music through your smart speakers at any time.

The union between Alexa and home automation technology makes it more convenient for you to upgrade other devices in your house as well; the Alexa skills kit makes it possible for developers to engineer devices that are instantly compatible with an Alexa AI. Smart thermostats, smart LED bulbs and remote controls are being designed to recognize and work with Alexa right out of the box.

Some other benefits of Alexa via Amazon Echo include:

  • Hands-free calling. 
  • Making lists. 
  • Updating calendars with simple voice commands. 
  • Setting up alerts and important reminders. 
  • Ordering food. 
  • Playing your favourite song. 
  • Receiving news updates and real-time weather forecasts.

The bottom line: Alexa isn’t doing anything we can’t already do ourselves. But she does automate many small tasks and make life a bit easier.

Cons

The biggest concern most people have about artificial intelligence is an invasion of privacy. Although Alexa doesn’t allow any third-parties to gain access to your personal information, your interactions with it aren’t entirely private.

Amazon collects audio input and uses it for targeted advertising. Your voice search is being sold and used by marketers for several reasons. Creating personalized ad experiences is one of the leading reasons; with so many competing brands in the internet’s oversaturated market, voice search marketing gives companies the opportunity to customize every consumer’s experience. Another major con of Alexa is that Amazon continues to hold personal data even after someone has deleted their own audio files. Text versions of deleted audio files still exist, including transcripts of a user’s transactions.

Before you buy, make sure that you fully read the terms and services of any smart technology. AI is meant to work for the greater good, but like any technology, it comes with risks. By being mindful and doing as much research as possible, you can see beyond the glitz of a shiny new smart device and make the best decision for your life and safety.

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