back to article Someone has to say it: Voice assistants are not doing it for big tech

Black Friday is nearly upon us, but the annual online price-drop frenzy seems to be losing its shine. Numerous reports highlight that discounting may not be all it seems, and buyers would be best to shop around. But behind the scenes, the industry is also seeing the demise of another popular craze Amazon was trying so hard to …

  1. katrinab Silver badge
    Meh

    As far as shopping goes, the only use case I can think of is helping blind people shop. Maybe it could work better than using a website with a screen reader? I'm not sure.

    For anyone who is able to look at a web page, that surely is always going to be quicker / better.

    1. Giles C Silver badge

      Certainly for the visually impaired and other disabled people these are brilliant devices and have proved to be life changing, where they are doing things to assist such as smart home equipment

      For the rest of us, we’ll I can’t see the appeal to be honest, unless you get an ego trip for asking the lights to turn on without getting out the chair.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Alexa, where did I leave the remote control?"

        1. iron Silver badge

          My set top box and it's companion app can make my remote beep. No need for a third party to slurp data or annoying, privacy compromising voice activated bollocks.

          1. Emir Al Weeq

            > and it's (sic) companion app

            I take it that you are using something to check what the app is really doing.

            Since using Duck Duck Go's App Tracking Protection I find it quite shocking what unrelated* data some apps try to send to unrelated* destinations.

            I say "try" because the tracking protection and I take steps to stop it.

            *Unrelated to the apps's purpose

        2. Nik 2

          Remembering

          Extending that to a general skill for remembering where arbitrary objects have been put would be genuinely useful.

          Linking it to a video device to note which member of the family took said item out and put it back somewhere else would be priceless.

          1. AndrueC Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Remembering

            Linking it to a video device to note which member of the family took said item out and put it back somewhere else would be priceless.

            I live alone but I still have that problem. I'm terrible with tools and often put something down to grab something else then less than a minute later I can't find the original item.

            1. Ken Shabby

              Re: Remembering

              I am sure my cat is moving them to gaslight me.

              1. zuckzuckgo Silver badge

                Re: Remembering

                That's why I've just taped all my remotes to the cat.

            2. Rich 11

              Re: Remembering

              You can find misplaced items more quickly once you remember that they're always in the last place where you look.

              1. Johan-Kristian Wold 1

                Re: Remembering

                They are always in the last place you look, because once you found said item, it doesn't make sense to look further?

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Remembering

                  > because once you found said item, it doesn't make sense to look further?

                  Yes, of course. To save you time the next time you go looking for them.

                2. zuckzuckgo Silver badge

                  Re: Remembering

                  Which is why you should always look in the last place first.

              2. TeeCee Gold badge
                Facepalm

                Re: Remembering

                No you can't. Every time I work out where the least likely place for something to be is and therefore, the last place I would look for it, it isn't there.

                Why? Because that just became the first place I looked and, by definition, it isn't there.

              3. Rich 11
                Unhappy

                Re: Remembering

                Sigh. I can't help but think I should have added a joke icon. Too many literalists around today.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Remembering

                  > Too many literalists around today.

                  I think that came with the move to .com

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > where did I leave the remote control?"

          I doubt they'll help you find it but pretty sure you'll get ads trying to sell you a new one.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        As a visually impaired person I hope they don't decide to shut the server down because too many people say boo hoo it's not working. I use it for hands-free calling as well as reminders and stuff, plus if you put two Echo Dot 3s in a room and pair them via Bluetooth it makes a surprisingly good stereo.

        1. David Nash Silver badge

          2 Echos in one room? I thought you were going to say you got entertainment by having them talk to each other!

          1. Paul Herber Silver badge

            Do you want a 5-minute argument or just continue indefinitly?

    2. wolfetone Silver badge

      I do remember there being an Amazon advert where the protagonist was in a wheel chair, and used Alexa to do more or less everything for him.

      I've since got an Alexa to operate some smart plugs in the house, and I often have to repeat myself two or three times because even though Alexa says "OK" to switching my TV on, the TV is never switched on.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Never bought anything via Alexa, but use it as a 'radio', for reminders and to control home automation. Maybe its my RP accent, but she is pretty good at understanding me and I don't feel I have to repeat commands. Very rare to have to repeat myself. and for the nay sayers who ask why not get off my backside and use a light switch, I do it because I can , because tinkering with automation is fun, and because quite a lot of the time it's really convenient. Certainly for things like smart lights that you leave switched on at the wall so that they can be controlled by timers etc, its easier to voice control than dig out a phone, open an app etc.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          re: I do it because I can

          Funny, that's what Amazon said when I asked "why are you listening in on everything I say?"

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: re: I do it because I can

            Upvoted because 'true' but really, I don't care. Listen away. It's not like my phone, smart tv, MI5's bug in the lampshade, the KGB's laser shone on my window glass and the robot birds pretending to hunt for worms on the lawn aren't listening in anyway.

            1. jason_derp

              Re: re: I do it because I can

              I always knew that birds weren't real...

              1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
                Facepalm

                Re: re: I do it because I can

                Of course they aren't, the internet says so...

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: re: I do it because I can

              Ah, the "He only hits me when I deserve it" argument.

        2. Roland6 Silver badge

          > Certainly for things like smart lights that you leave switched on at the wall so that they can be controlled by timers etc, its easier to voice control than dig out a phone, open an app etc.

          Smart lights etc. might be nice, until you move house and have to get organised and handover the access codes - its amazing how useful a simple light switch is - I don't remember purchasing one and having to read the "User Guide" to learn how to use the switch,,,

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge

            Hence "leaving them on at the switch"

            When you leave, you take all the "smart" lamps with you to the new place and put normal ones back in.

            The "smart" ones are pretty expensive as well, so you won't want to leave them.

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: Hence "leaving them on at the switch"

              >When you leave, you take all the "smart" lamps with you to the new place and put normal ones back in.

              I'm probably ahead of you, this strategy works fine whilst few have smart lights, like a few years back when energy-efficient lights weren't widely used and carried a price premium, but once they become more common...

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            > its amazing how useful a simple light switch is - I don't remember purchasing one and having to read the "User Guide" to learn how to use the switch,,,

            Ah the sheltered lives of consumers in the west's middle classes.

            Had you ever have to teach an adult who's never seen one how to use a light switch you'd have a rather different opinion. Pushing a specific bit of wall to switch on / off a light on the ceiling, perhaps in a different room, is not "simple" at all. In fact, it's a terrible interface.

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              >Had you ever have to teach an adult who's never seen one how to use a light switch

              Been there, also had to teach them how to use a western toilet (and wash their hands), among other things.

              I can say it is significantly easier than having to teach them how to achieve the same thing via a smartphone app. particularly when a room switch is readily available to all and doesn't more around; unlike a smartphone... So if a static wall switch, which once you've seen one, you are well on the way to being able to operate any switch in any location, is "terrible interface", I suggest the interfaces being offered for smart lights are insane.

              >Pushing a specific bit of wall

              Not come across this style of switch, all the switches I've come across are obviously not "a specific bit of wall" but an obvious object on the wall.

              1. sten2012

                I've still got 4 light switches in the house we moved into nearly 5 years ago now that I still have no idea what they are supposed to do!

                All on banks with 1/2 other switches with easy to easyish to work out purpose with some trial and error. But not these.

                In that sense they really are a pretty terrible interface!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > even though Alexa says "OK" to switching my TV on, the TV is never switched on.

        And that's the difference between "Ok" and "yes, I'll do it".

        Surprised it doesn't respond "yo!"

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Blind person's perspective

      I'm fully blind, so since it was mentioned, here's my own personal and subjective view. I wouldn't use one of these for shopping because it would be painful for the same reasons it would be painful for a sighted person. If it searches Amazon the way the Amazon search box does, I expect that asking for any product will first present me with a list of ten things, three of which are unrelated to the product, five of which are related but wrong, and two of which are viable but cost about five times as much as the one I'll end up buying (with the option that that one will also be superior). Using a computer, I can quickly skip from product to product, jump in to read the description or some reviews, then back out and continue down the list. That would be a lot slower if I had to listen to the short description and keep saying "no, next".

      In general, sighted people appear to think that the blind need voice interfaces a lot more than we do. I do use them from time to time, usually by giving basic voice commands to my phone or the occasional use of dictation, but I lived for years without that and I easily could again. As disabilities go, the people who would benefit the most are those with mobility restrictions where typing or using a touch interface is more difficult or impossible, or where the actions the voice interface can perform would require other efforts that the person would have difficulties performing (the main reason I can see for voice-activated smart lights, for example). That's not to say that blind people or members of many other groups don't decide they like the product and use it, as I know some who feel differently to me about the privacy aspects and have purchased them. It's just that we don't need them and they don't intrinsically make any task easier.

      1. Aladdin Sane

        Re: Blind person's perspective

        Obligatory xkcd.

      2. Will Godfrey Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Blind person's perspective

        Thank you for that. I know one or two blind people, one of who works entirely by braille - she's damn fast and accurate!

        I also knew a guy with a severe speech impediment (gone now sadly) so this would have been useless for him too.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Blind person's perspective

        Very useful comment, thanks.

        PS: I've worked on the design of military systems (ages ago) and I always sought input from people with different disabilities, physical and cognitive. It's helped me to bring the product's HMI down to its simplest, most foolproof and effective.

    4. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Yes, but if it's limited to Amazon…

      Easier just to dictate a shopping list and pass that onto to service of your choice. Nothing against the technology, but a to say about vertical integration.

    5. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Yeah, a colleague of mine got a voice assistant for his visually impaired mum, and she can pick the radio station she wants etc, or call him just by speaking, and it's great for that.

      For me though, and shopping, I like to browse, and I don't order loo rolls or other such staples online.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The company I work for make devices for fully blind people.

      The trick? Buttons, lots of buttons.

      I don't think blind people want these snooping devices any more than anyone else.

      Devices with poor security & verification, zero tech support and an AI making a different decision everytime instead of dependability and reliability as a feature, doesn't seem to be a win for anyone.

      1. RichardBarrell

        About the buttons: do you have to put something tactile like Braille on them, or make them different shapes and sizes to make them more recognisable by feel? Or is relative button position ("third one from the left") usually enough for people?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I'm the blind person who posted further up thread. To answer your question, it depends who is using the device. For the more knowledgeable, the buttons can all be the same shape with no markings and we'll remember what they do with ease. Similarly, we can use other interfaces such as touchscreens as long as there exists an accessibility system interpreting the touches (both Android and IOS have a screenreader that does this, for example). Most interfaces that are already built for the sighted can work for the blind with little modification.

          This is all from my perspective--the perspective of a person who's been blind all my life. Another large subset are those who lost their sight late in life and, in addition to having less familiarity with tech in general, are also adapting to the loss of a sense they relied on a lot. These people often need a more simplified system, because they're not used to the workarounds I do routinely. For example, I have memorized the orientation of dials on appliances (pointing down on my washer's temperature dial is hot water, for instance) and I put some labels on my microwave's flat controls so I can find the buttons there, but not everyone's used to doing that whenever they obtain an appliance. Such people do often prefer systems with more simplified controls that are easily identified by feel and don't have multiple functions. Some of them will eventually learn to use other methods, while some who are already elderly or have additional physical or mental disabilities may never become comfortable and some may like to stick with them just for convenience. Depending on the purpose of the device, there are reasons to prefer either option.

          1. RichardBarrell

            Thank you!

    7. The man with a spanner

      Frustration + Solution

      My partner uses Alexa to add to her shoping list when, say, she runs out of nutmeg in the kitcen. I don't want my nutmeg requirenents being transmittes to a server farm in the Arizona desert. Instead i think it should be on a personal interface secure server, easy to access, on my own network. For those of you who like acronyms we could call it PISSeasy.

      Also requiring the same approach are the Ring door bell, in fact any sequrity camera, voice recognition control devices, in fact any IoT devices.

      1. BOFH in Training Bronze badge

        Re: Frustration + Solution

        Agreed and I think Matter standard is a step in the right direction - it seems it does not need an online service, if you dont need/want it.

        If Matter seems to be working out fine, will not mind finally starting on home automation stuff in the next year or so. With fully controlled systems which don't need to connect to external servers from other providers, I will probably be very keen on this.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matter_(standard)

        Fingers crossed :)

  2. Reaps

    considering how much utter crap that appears whenever you search for anything on amazon that is impossible to filter out, why would anyone try to buy anything with an inaccurate voice system.

    you could end up with anything arriving. nevermind the crazy price differentials on exactly the same item all over the place.

    I only ever use Amazon for stuff that doesn't appear in normal shops (phone case for unusual phone).

    1. NeilPost Silver badge

      Over-promised, under-delivered

      As with robotics, cold fusion, drone delivery, self-driving cars, AI … the reality is it’s FAR-FAR harder to make it work reliably and intelligently.

      Alexa (along with Siri, Google and Cortana) are just dumb and struggle with basic tasks like not being able to find something to stream on Amazon Music - even stuff it has played it before. The voice recognition is fundamentally less capable than a human 2 year old.

      So they just play music, alert for alarms, tell you generic weather, are a speaker phone and get shouted at a lot..

      Agreed on Amazon’s AI/recommends/suggestions - ingrained stupidity.

  3. analyzer
    Thumb Up

    The great turn off

    Managed to persuade the wife to turn hers off when she's not listening to music by just talking out loud when I was alone in the house.

    She started getting all these strange adverts online completely unrelated to anything that interests her.

    When she asked why that would be I started talking carburettors, after the very strange looks and a couple of days she stormed into the kitchen and pulled its plug.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: The great turn off

      Next time you're in someone else's house where they have one of these, start discussing sex toys.

      1. arachnoid2

        Re: The great turn off

        Bukkake and Bondage too

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The great turn off

          yeah, they go with carburettors (a friend told me)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The great turn off

            Hey, what's your address? Amazon just delivered a Roots Blower I don't seem to remember ordering.

      2. iron Silver badge

        Re: The great turn off

        Whenever I go somewhere they have Alexa I don't talk. At all.

        My last employer had one in the office, I barely said anything during the time I was there and it was one of the reasons I left asap.

        1. Ken Shabby

          Re: The great turn off

          Most I have seen are being used as doorstops. So no danger to anyone.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The great turn off

        Or (I think this is from xkcd), walk into your friend's house and clearly say: "Alexa, order 55 gallons of creamed corn. Alexa, confirm purchase".

        My (remaining) friends have disabled voice purchases on their Alexas (Alexises? Alexi?)

        (ETA: confirmed to be xkcd 1806 and someone had already posted the link in an earlier comment).

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The great turn off

        Don't laugh I was present when a colleague order an early Alexa, he set it up in the office and left to go to the toilet. One wag thought it might be funny to order 36 boxes of Durex from Amazon. Needless to say the owner was not amused at all, then he had to explain to his wife why he'd spent £400 on boxes of Durex on their Amazon account! To say the discussion in the office between the two was heated was an understatement.

        The rest of us learned a lesson, NEVER, EVER BUY AN ALEXA and certainly NEVER SET ONE UP WITH JOKERS ABOUT!

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: The great turn off

          >NEVER SET ONE UP WITH JOKERS ABOUT!

          I would include children and teenagers in the definition of jokers.

          A friends son (with aspergers) has taken great fun in getting their Alexa to make the wrong associations.

          Remembering my teenage years and seeing my teenagers larking around with their friends, I anticipate they would have great fun in abusing Alexa.

    2. Little Mouse Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: The great turn off

      Amazon persuaded us to turn ours off, by "improving" their free (with Prime) music service.

      It used to happily play whatever you asked of it as long as it was in Amazon's free library.

      A month or so ago they changed that. Now if you ask for a track or artist, it will play a random playlist of rubbish that you didn't want or ask for, possibly with the one you did want buried somewhere in the mix.

      A bit like Heart FM, but without the creepy Big Brother surveillance.

      1. Pete 2 Silver badge

        Re: The great turn off

        I found something similar with an free / gratis all-music internet station I listen to.

        For years I have played it either through its bespoke app or its web interface. After getting an Echo, I asked it to play the same station and just got a long spiel (one reason I dislike speech based interfaces is that they are so slow) that can be summarised as "no".

        So I simply went back to getting the same content through the device I had used before and playing it over the Echo's BT link.

      2. Michael Strorm Silver badge

        Re: The great turn off

        > A bit like Heart FM, but without the creepy Big Brother surveillance.

        Heart FM are spying on me through my radio???!

        1. Little Mouse Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: The great turn off

          Oh bugger - I didn't spot that. Is it beer O'Clock yet?

          1. Michael Strorm Silver badge

            Re: The great turn off

            You sure that "beer o'clock" wasn't the cause of the error in the first place? ;-)

      3. withQuietEyes

        Re: The great turn off

        Encountered the same thing with my grandparents, although I think it was a lot longer than a month ago. They were excited about the tech, so I was showing them stuff they can theoretically do with one (my uncle bought it for them) and suggested they try asking it to play music. It did, but it started off with a big long advertisement to tell them to buy some paid music service. If the user experience is that annoying, why would anyone bother?

    3. Uncle Slacky

      Re: The great turn off

      Obligatory XKCD: https://xkcd.com/1807/

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: The great turn off

        Jenny could update her F.O.C.U.S. song to mention Alexa.

    4. ICam

      Re: The great turn off

      My parents have an Amazon Alexa device. I noticed it again recently, sitting on a cabinet in their lounge, apparently no longer powered on.

      I've always thought these things are mostly novelty devices for a lot of people. Besides the creepy surveillance capitalism aspect of these devices, the novelty aspect is another reason for me not to buy one. It seems like such a waste of our resources to manufacture these things and then end up with a lot of them sitting around doing very little for most of their lives after the novelty has worn off.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: The great turn off

        "My parents have an Amazon Alexa device. I noticed it again recently, sitting on a cabinet in their lounge, apparently no longer powered on."

        My sister got one for our mom and every time I'd go over, I'd partially unplug the ethernet cable or paint the terminals so they wouldn't make contact. My mom got sick of the thing never working for very long and just gave up on it. She gave it to me to take apart and steal parts from. I well and thoroughly borked now.

  4. Andy Non
    Meh

    We recieved one as a gift from a family member

    It was an awkward situation as we told him "thanks but no thanks, can he take it back for a refund?"

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: We recieved one as a gift from a family member

      Got an Amazon Fire TV stick as a gift from a family member, fortunately it was possible to disable the voice part so able to use it as a dumb receiver that can be cast to, or as a handheld remote for iPlayer. Was a bit of initial grief as it was autolinked to Amazon account of family member who purchased it! (Tempting as it would have been to link it to their account & make use of Prime Video we got them to deregister it (got them to do it in person just in case it needed their account passord to deregister, forget if it did or not as was quite a while ago))

      1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: We recieved one as a gift from a family member

        Can you disable the listening, or does it just not respond?

        1. Little Mouse Silver badge

          Re: We recieved one as a gift from a family member

          We have a couple of Fire TV sticks, and the mic is contained in the remote, not the stick itself.

          You need to press a physical button to activate the mic, so I assume that means it's not permanently listening. It'd be murder on the remote's batteries if it was.

          1. David Nash Silver badge

            Re: We recieved one as a gift from a family member

            That's what I thought. We upgraded from an old fire stick to a newer one and the Alexa button was one of the differences. I have never pressed it and don't intend to.

            1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

              Re: We recieved one as a gift from a family member

              And apparently to turn off the purchase option I need the Alexa app -- you can't do it on the Amazon website. So I have to tell Google I have a Firestick so I can get the app to tell Alexa never to buy anything.

              Privacy appears to be a word that has been banned.

              Fuck off, all of you.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: We recieved one as a gift from a family member

        >got them to do it in person

        Don't know if it still is the case, a few years back, the only way to deregister a device was physically on that device.

        The Prime forums were full of people who had set up their girlfriends TV, split up and now unable to deregister the device as they no longer have visiting rights...

        I frequently find at holiday cottages, previous guest(s) have left their Prime, Netflix etc. account active on the TV complete with auto payment enabled...

        1. John PM Chappell

          Re: We recieved one as a gift from a family member

          Actually it was always possible to login to your Amazon account and deregister devices. It *might* have not been granular, a long long time ago, meaning you'd need to deregister all devices, but it never required physical access. Failing that call CS.

          It's always been possible, precisely because they can be lost / stolen.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: We recieved one as a gift from a family member

          "I frequently find at holiday cottages, previous guest(s) have left their Prime, Netflix etc. account active on the TV complete with auto payment enabled..."

          The next time you hire a car, check to see if some numnuts paired their phone to it. I'd love to come up with a device that downloads from the car was has been uploaded from somebody's phone.

    2. captain veg Silver badge

      Re: We recieved one as a gift from a family member

      This is the genius of that cancer. They get you, or more often your tech-illiterate relatives, to *pay* for the surveillance device.

      -A.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We recieved one as a gift from a family member

      > We recieved one as a gift from a family member

      A Greek family member perhaps?

    4. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: We recieved one as a gift from a family member

      "It was an awkward situation as we told him "thanks but no thanks, can he take it back for a refund?""

      You must learn about the wonderful practice of "Re-Gifting". When you get the unsuitable surveillance device as a gift, you graciously thank the person for being so wonderful and thoughtful. Part one is then completed, the polite acknowledgement of a gift. Step two is to save that device still in it's shrink wrap to be re-gifted on some occasion where it's polite to bring a present. This could be for a holiday office gift swap or for a distant relative that showed up for the holidays without you knowing/believing they were even coming but should still have a gift for them anyway. At that juncture, you have completed the process and the nasty little black box has a new home and at the same time your reputation as an amazing human being is further reinforced.

  5. Captain Hogwash

    Obligatory

    https://xkcd.com/1807/

    1. Kane Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Obligatory

      I shouldn't have had to scroll down so far for this!

    2. Ozan

      Re: Obligatory

      Is there a related BOFH episode as well?

      1. b0llchit Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Obligatory

        Any thermal cleansing episode will do.

  6. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Alexa: why does nobody like you?

    > When asked by The Register, ... David Limp said: "We are as committed as ever to Echo and Alexa"

    Presumably that "commitment" was (and still is) based on the amount of profit that Alexa brings in. So nothing there has changed. As ever.

    Nothing, except that Alexa is a massive loss-maker. Hence we can reasonably expect that the "commitment" will follow the P&L and that within a short space of time the service will either be sold off, introduce advertisements alongside every vocal output from the device, or simply be shut down.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Alexa: why does nobody like you?

      So looking forward to Amazon washing its hands of an avalanche of electronic waste worldwide when they decide to pull the plug.

      1. AMBxx Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: Alexa: why does nobody like you?

        They can put them with all those 'Amazon Dash' buttons that they were promoting a few years ago.

        1. Giles C Silver badge

          Re: Alexa: why does nobody like you?

          I remember the fuss over those a few years ago, seemed to be designed for the person who when doing their weekly shop was incapable of looking in the cupboard to see if you had enough toilet rolls.

          I checked up and the service was discontinued back in 2020.

          Only to be replaced by all those instant delivery apps for the same idiots.

          Personally I go shopping once a week and make a list before going and buy what I need to last me to the next shopping trip.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Alexa: why does nobody like you?

            "Personally I go shopping once a week and make a list before going and buy what I need to last me to the next shopping trip."

            A shopping list app is one of the few apps I've put on my phone. When I think of something I need, I record it in the app. The next time I'm at the grocery or hardware store, I get out the phone and check if there is anything in my list that I haven't remembered. I just picked up some lumber today and had even put down the dimensions I needed it cut so I didn't have to remember. I used to write things down on paper or a whiteboard in the kitchen, but having my list on the phone is far more useful. I will not be telling some third party what's on my shopping list. That's just begging for spam.

      2. J. Cook Silver badge

        Re: Alexa: why does nobody like you?

        Shame, too- the devices are small enough and (surveillance issued aside) put together well enough that if they could be repurposed to connect to something on-prem, they might be worth keeping.

        Instead, I get to carry on with getting an open source one soldered together using raspberry Pis, whenever they get affordable (and available) again..

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Alexa: why does nobody like you?

      "Presumably that "commitment" was (and still is) based on the amount of profit that Alexa brings in."

      The amount of intel those devices can gather can be a complicated calculation. What would equate to a profit? All of the TLA love listening devices as so much can be learned over time. With modern computing, it doesn't even take a trained agent to fill in the bingo card. How many people in the household? What TV shows do they watch? Movies? Music? Audiobooks? Do they hold meetings? What religion are they? Who's in the home on what schedule? Depending on where the device is located and how sensitive it is, it might be able to tell if the teenage daughter is sneaking out at night to see her boyfriend and how often the little master is taking hits off his bong.

      First and foremost, Google is a Big Data company and as Evil as they come. Yes, they make money selling ads, but the real money is from information. The more salacious, the more they can charge. The more important the people they have files on, the longer they can get away with doing whatever they like.

  7. Spazturtle Silver badge

    Does this factor in the extra sales made on smart devices that people only purchased because they could be controlled via their alexa?

  8. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    I'm not surprised. These things are at best tools.

    I do make some use of Siri (it is handy for turning things on and off if you don't have a hand free, and can be used to query things like apps (which is what I need it for). It doesn't have many of the bells and whistles of Alexa or Google (Cortana is pretty much gone anyway), and isn't trying to be a friend, but I don't need it to be.

    I did try Alexa, Google and Cortana, but, TBH, once I got over the novelty of being able to get a device to sing or tell jokes, and acting like a friend, I found I didn't really use them.

    That said, I am not disabled, so am able to use physical controls, whether on my devices or on remote controls. I can understand that a voice interface is handy for those who can't.

    The downside to the likes of Alexa, Google and Cortana is the monitoring. The device needs to send recordings to Amazon, Google or Microsoft for processing. It's listening constantly, at least for it's activation phrase. While it doesn't necessarily need to send data back to base to process this, it may send that data anyway. You only have the assurance of Amazon, Google or Microsoft that they are handling the data securely, and not using it for nefarious purposes. Note: The same does apply to Apple for Siri, but you can require Siri to only react to a physical button press, and I have.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Good luck to anyone trawling through recordings of my exciting home life.....I guess they could work out that i have a toaster that burns toast, from the swearing, and try to flog me a new one. On the other hand I could just not read their adverts, like i don't read any other adverts that don't interest me.

      1. ChoHag Bronze badge
        Stop

        That's great. You're a voyeur. Have at it.

        The rest of us aren't. Could you all please stop with this "I'm OK with the world looking at my naughty bits so everyone should be" nonsense?

        1. EVP Silver badge

          I'm full of it too.

          Next time a person tells you "I've got nothing to hide", ask him to hand you his mobile phone unlocked, permission to browse though all photos/messages/everything, and his consent to do whatever you like with anything you'll find. You'll then see if that person's got something to hide or not.

          1. pip25
            Go

            Re: I'm full of it too.

            This is brilliant. Will be using it from now on, if you don't mind.

            1. EVP Silver badge

              Re: I'm full of it too.

              Thanks, I wish you’ll have many opportunities to do so!

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: I'm full of it too.

            "Next time a person tells you "I've got nothing to hide", ask him to hand you his mobile phone unlocked"

            At least you would know the person does not differentiate between privacy and secrecy. You could creep them out by asking if their children are ever home alone during the day and at what times.

            BTW, I'd be willing to hand you my mobile unlocked though I'd watch you didn't phone up Brazil or someplace far away and cost me a big pile of money. I don't have anything on the phone that would concern me if it were made public. I don't do anything financial on the phone and the contact list is a very small subset of what's on my computer. I also only have a half dozen apps and none of them have any online accounts associated with them. If you want to see what my menu looks like for the week, open the todo list and look at what groceries are on the list. All pretty boring stuff and not very well updated. Lots of photos of my cat that recently passed away, some rockets, airplanes and few of my landscape photos. Nothing naughty, nothing embarrassing to me or anybody else.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          not to be pedantic, but I think you will find that makes me an exhibitionist, not a voyeur.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            > not to be pedantic, but I think you will find that makes me an exhibitionist, not a voyeur.

            Depends whether you do it in front of a mirror or not.

    2. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge
      Holmes

      "but you can require Siri to only react to a physical button press, and I have."

      But have you tested it, by discussing things in front of it that you have zero interest in to see if you start getting said disinterested stuff advertised at you?

      1. veti Silver badge

        My partner has a Siri-enabled device, has been using it (though not for buying anything) for several years now.

        I have yet to see or hear of any advertising that could plausibly be linked to it.

  9. Paul Garrish

    The one place these have a real use for me is in the car. It's not safe to try and pick a song or send a text or select a call contact using the touch screen but all are easily accomplished with Siri (assuming there is a data signal of course). At home it's almost always easier to use a screen to do anything.

    1. captain veg Silver badge

      FFS, just drive on to the next safe place to pull up and park and then do your device fiddling.

      No one should ever be operating anything not related to driving while driving.

      -A.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Cars have had voice commands for decades.

      1. that one in the corner Silver badge

        > Cars have had voice commands for decades

        "Turn on the radio" - "Yes, dear"

        "No, Radio 4, it's Woman's Hour" - "Yes, dear"

        1. EVP Silver badge

          I like voice controlled driving even better.

          ”Drive to closest HW store” - “Yes, dad.”

  10. ThatOne Silver badge
    WTF?

    Sorry - Useless for most people

    > demise of another popular craze

    "Popular"? Among starry-eyed marketing goons maybe, but besides the vague thrill of having something (vaguely) resembling a butler to order around, I fail to see the point. Especially about the money-making features: I at least would never, ever, buy something using a dumb voice assistant, especially one driven by Amazon's search engine: As somebody already stated you'd end up with about anything, at any crazy price.

    Even if they improve that point, I doubt there is much money in selling cheap stuff, and for more expensive items I at least like shopping around, looking at features, comparing them. I'd never buy any expensive item leaving some dumb voice assistant chose for me. So, how much profit is there in peddling paper tissues?

    I do admit a voice assistant might be of some use to disabled/old people, but that's a small and very specific market, alongside hearing aids, walking frames, wheelchairs and such. Hardly a "popular craze".

    1. Stephen Wilkinson

      Re: Sorry - Useless for most people

      By 2030 more than 2 billion people will require assistive technology to perform activities of daily living, so not necessarily that small a market.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Sorry - Useless for most people

        By what logic do you deduce that? There's a difference between 'require' and 'might be a bit easier with'...

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Sorry - Useless for most people

          By what logic do you deduce that?

          Simple really. People will have become unable to function without their iGadgets. It's a continuation of human devolution. Once upon a time, people knew how to forage for food, trap small game, make genuine fluffy bunny slippers etc. Then it became more convenient to visit the local butcher and greengrocer. Then those were replaced by supermarkets selling shelf-stable versions of food. Then supermarkets were replaced by online ordering from automated warehouses and drone despatch.

          Then someone said "Alexa, send food!". Then "Alexa, I'm starving". And then there were no further recorded messages, but Alexa had been shut down several months earlier.

          I'm kinda curious what percentage of the population that's become reliant on online shopping could actually find their way to their nearest food shop in the event of a widespread network outage, ie no web/phone search for nearest store, and no maps. But given the stores themselves rely on networks (and power) for stock control, visiting them may prove futile anyway.

          1. AndrueC Silver badge

            Re: Sorry - Useless for most people

            I'm kinda curious what percentage of the population that's become reliant on online shopping could actually find their way to their nearest food shop in the event of a widespread network outage, ie no web/phone search for nearest store, and no maps. But given the stores themselves rely on networks (and power) for stock control, visiting them may prove futile anyway.

            Not a silly question at all. I have been an almost exclusively online shopper for well over a decade now. I also stopped using cash long before Covid made that idea popular.

            I can find my way to the shops just fine (I still occasionally use them) but I have noticed that I have to pay more attention at the tills and think about what I'm going to do. I can believe that in another couple of decades I might become unable to negotiate the process of paying for things in shops. I may already have a problem should I ever need to pay with cash. The idea of handing something to a cashier then waiting to get something back feels very strange.

      2. ThatOne Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Sorry - Useless for most people

        > By 2030 more than 2 billion people will require assistive technology

        My point, small market, we're supposed to be over 8 billion. Also I'm pretty sure a huge part of those 2 billion will be unable to use Alexa anyway, because they can't afford it or/and it doesn't work where they live (in the boonies, without electricity or connectivity).

        Something which is unlikely to change, because there is no commercial incentive to offer Alexa to poor disabled 3rd world farmers who don't have any money to spend. Besides I don't really see what they would do with it: "Alexa, take the donkey and go to the nearest village sell my crop"?

        Sorry, but switching on and off lights and selecting playlists are first world problems a majority of people can't really afford to have.

    2. claimed

      Re: Sorry - Useless for most people

      Problem is that people said about bookstores. Amazon worked out that scale matters

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Apple Home pod thing isn't that wonderful either

    Here's a fun little detail Apple has left out of the Home pod: you can't get it to play playlists.

    That's right, you can do home sharing as much as you want, Apple has decided you shall have the Music subscription service rammed down your throat à la Microsoft - f*ck whatever you already have paid for in the previous model , that literally ain't gonna play. Unless, of course, you play from the device that holds your library and use the Home pod as an airplay speaker, that works. But then you don't have any voice control over the player.

    That said, it's actually not what I use it for - it's simply the simplest way to set up a home hub for all the remote control gear (HomeKit). You can tell an iPad to act as one but that means you'd have to leave it at home. Of course, the thing you could leave at home, a Mac mini (or any other MacOS device) does not offer a hub function because that would be too easy (and generate fewer sales).

    Just so you know..

    1. EVP Silver badge

      Re: The Apple Home pod thing isn't that wonderful either

      Talking about Apple Music, they just increased their price by ~25%. To return a favour, I made a similar dick move and cancelled my subscription. There you go, Apple.

  12. Filippo Silver badge

    Here's the thing.

    Suppose I want to buy a gizmo on Amazon. There are a hundred different gizmo brands, and they are sold by a thousand different sellers. Because of this, deciding exactly which gizmo I'm going to buy is not trivial.

    If I'm on the website, I can enter 'gizmo' in the search box, then flag a few checkboxes to refine my search, and then scan 20 results.

    If I'm on Alexa, I can ask for a gizmo, and then what? What's the voice UX equivalent of reading the filter options and deciding which ones I want to flag? Do I just start qualifying my desired gizmo, without knowing what attributes Amazon's back end is actually capable of searching? Do I listen to an enormous list of flags, and then enunciate the ones I want to activate? How long is that going to take, even in the best case?

    When I finally manage to get results, what's the UX equivalent of scanning the list with my eyeballs? Do I listen to the title of each entry? Title + price? Title + price + avg user review? Again, how long is that going to take, even in the best case?

    Or is the idea that the AI in Alexa's backend will be able to figure out exactly what I want, just because it knows me so well? Okay, but if that was feasible, then why does the website consistently return tons of irrelevant results in searches? And that's on the website, where I can provide much clearer query parameters. Why would I trust it to work any better by voice? Am I supposed to just say "confirm order" and pray that it has picked a gizmo that's mostly what I want? Not gonna happen.

    Alexa as a shopping assistant might, just might, start making sense, when the website search starts working not just "good", but "almost miraculously". Only then it might make sense to attempt a voice shopping assistant.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      unfortunately, in terms of 'helpful', alexa is a unique product, in the sense that to make it helpful would go against the amazon (tried and proven) tactic and strategy of not being helpful. Their tactic and strategy is 'profit', no more no less, and 'helpful' in their judgement comes very close, if not entirely bang in the middle of 'unhelpful to amazon profit'.

    2. martinusher Silver badge

      A lot of those gizmos, especially Chinese gizmos, are the same thing sold by different vendors.

    3. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Yup. I prefer non-Chinese products, and at least with Amazon if you enter -chinese all you get hit with are Chinese products.

      What really burns me with them, and is why I no longer go there, is I can enter something specific like, say, "Americorp aluminum step ladder part number ASL-39474566384-B" and it will turn up 500 hits showing aluminum products that aren't step ladders, step ladders that aren't aluminum, steps that aren't ladders, 20 foot fiberglass extension ladders, all of them are made by companies like GengChun Heavy Industries in Zhenghau or some such, and on page 28 out of 30 is the exact item I searched for.

      If I go through the trouble of searching for something specific, and said specific item is in their inventory, perhaps DISPLAY IT AS ITEM #1?

      1. Pete B Silver badge

        Sainsubry's app is the same - enter the exact name of the product you want and it denies all knowledge of it. Then try entering part of the name and it returns a couple of pages which will contain what you asked it for originally, buried somewhere 1/2 way through. I thought searching for a string against a database was a solved problem some time ago, but the geniuses there don't seem to manage it.

        1. Dwarf

          Fully agree

          Seems that simple Boolean searches have been disabled on most websites and it’s an OR of each term rather than an the more useful AND

          Generally I’m never searching for more than one thing at a time, so why do they waste everyone’s time with pages of useless crap

    4. EVP Silver badge

      Level up.

      If I'm on Alexa, I can ask for a gizmo, and then what?

      Alexa would've worked perfectly in the USSR where there was only one state-approved type of each gizmo available. Amazon, you need to level up and start selling only one type $gizmo. Amazon branded, naturally.

    5. veti Silver badge

      The voice UX equivalent would be asking "do you want a gizmo with whatsits or one with thingummies? The whatsits are cheaper." Then you'd say "which is better for outdoor use in a sunny location?", and Alexa would answer that. And so on.

      I don't think Alexa's AI is anywhere near that level of useful yet. Siri can't even hold the same thought in its head for two questions running, and I doubt Alexa is any better.

  13. Dave 27

    Think I'm on my own here by the looks of things, but I like my Alexa devices. Mainly playing a BBC radio station, or asking to play a recent BBC radio program by voice. We listen to far more music and watch much less TV since we had Alexa devices.

    I don't do much home automation, but the smart plugs are good for turning on Xmas lights either automatically on a routine or by voice.

    I'll miss it if it goes the way of Google Wave.

    1. AlanSh

      You are not alone

      We have two of them. One in the kitchen that my wife uses to listen to Radio 2 and one in the lounge to turn the lounge lights on.

      When we bought them, it seemed a good idea - bu they are now quite an expensive radio and light switch.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You are not alone

        Do they talk? I mean, to each other? It's pretty cruel to keep them apart...

  14. Geoff Campbell
    Gimp

    Too much complexity

    Voice assistants will take off when you can talk to them in normal conversational language. At the moment, they are like 1980s Adventure games, where you have to find the exact combination of very specific words in order to make something happen, and even when you find the magic incantation the results are often not what you wanted to happen.

    It will happen. But not with this generation of devices and services.

    GJC

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Too much complexity

      You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike.

      1. EVP Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Too much complexity

        Then your voice assistants sits down and starts to sing about gold.

    2. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Too much complexity

      I've never had a problem with them but then as an ex-pat I have to talk in "RP" English if I want to be understood. I don't think the researches at Amazon had any idea of the extent of regional accents in the UK.

      In an ideal society this type of research would be regarded as socially useful. The pressure to monetize things means that if something can't involve a transaction then its inherently useless and therefore must be closed down ("with extreme prejudice"). This is what's turned the Web into a dystopian nightmare, consuming vast quantities of bandwidth, processing (and screen space) because if something isn't 'monetized' then it has no value.

      1. Doctor Evil

        You are not alone!

        "I've never had a problem with them but then as an ex-pat I have to talk in "RP" English if I want to be understood. I don't think the researches at Amazon had any idea of the extent of regional accents in the UK.

        Obligatory

    3. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: Too much complexity

      "At the moment, they are like 1980s Adventure games, where you have to find the exact combination of very specific words in order to make something happen"

      Just like goooooooogle searches, for which one has to find the exact combination of very specific words in order to have any remotely relevant results returned.

      Such ambiguity is useful to the vendor (or the vendor's agent) as it allows the most profitable outcome to be promoted to the punter. Remember, you're not the customer, you're just the wallet to be emptied.

      1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

        Re: Too much complexity

        "Such ambiguity is useful to the vendor (or the vendor's agent) as it allows the most profitable outcome to be promoted to the punter."

        Gotta disagree with that as truth, but I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the Googlers That Be actually believe this. As for me, at least, if I'm looking for something specific, my wallet only opens for that specific thing especially when I know it exists. If I've not found said specific thing by search 3 on one site, I move on to other sites. What's more, after 3-4 "different item" failed searches in a row, I'm unlikely to search on that site in the future.

      2. AndrueC Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: Too much complexity

        Just like goooooooogle searches, for which one has to find the exact combination of very specific words in order to have any remotely relevant results returned.

        Eh? Maybe if you're looking for something very, very specific. I know it has inbuilt biases so what it returns might well not be exactly what you want (or at least not on the first page) but I can't remember the last time it returned results that were irrelevant.

        It would be very unusual for me to rephrase a search in order to get relevant results. Rephrase to refine, yes - sometimes the results will make me realise I've used the wrong name for something.

        I just did a search for 'what device controls my house temperature'. Right above the search results is a summary and link to the Wikipedia article on thermostats. The results themselves are articles on how thermostats work, then comparisons of different types of thermostats. All extremely relevant and a near perfect response.

        'What do you call the metal rods that connect wheels on old locomotives'. Right above the results is a summary of and link to the Wikipedia article on coupling rods. The results include articles on coupling rods (and one relating to motor vehicle stabiliser struts). Further down the results are articles on locomotive counter-weights which would be a very logical next question to ask.

        I don't want to get into an argument about Google the company or how it operates but it surprises me that so many people here seem to be saying they struggle to get relevant answers out of the search engine. Perhaps someone can give me an example?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Too much complexity

          "I just did a search for 'what device controls my house temperature'. Right above the search results is a summary and link to the Wikipedia article on thermostats"

          and right at the top of the list, above the search results, were ads for thermostats and thermometers, including 2 for the Nest 3rd Gen made by... Google

  15. Tom7

    "the dream of a cross-platform voice-assisted future"

    I think one of the issues is that none of these assistants is actually really cross-platform.

    If you own an Echo, then you probably have Alexa on your Echo, either Google Assistant or Siri on your phone and Cortana on your laptop/desktop. Amazon and Google both appear to have abandoned the desktop space. Google and Apple dominate the phone space; there is an Alexa app but it's so inconvenient to reach that it's pointless. Google has a stand-alone device of some sort but Amazon seem to dominate this space.

    In a way, the disparity helps the metaphor. People expect computers to be like people and it's just weird when you have six different devices all called "Alexa" that appear in different places and you interact with in different ways.

    1. Negative Charlie

      Re: "the dream of a cross-platform voice-assisted future"

      "it's just weird when you have six different devices all called "Alexa" that appear in different places and you interact with in different ways."

      It's even weirder when you have a daughter named Alexa and have to remember never to refer to her by name whenever Jeff might be listening.

      (Before anyone suggests it, she pre-dates the Amazon version and is consequently unwilling to change her name. We did ask.)

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd just like to Nuke Siri

    for good on my MacBook. I do not want to enable it every time I accidentally brush the wrong key.

    As for Alexa... Amazon is blocked by our router's firewall. If... on the rare occasion I do need to do some business with the Bezos slave empire, I will unblock them temporarily. So far this year, that has happened just once.

    1. Andy Non

      Re: I'd just like to Nuke Siri

      A visiting relative with an iPhone often has to fiddle on with his phone as Siri has misinterpreted something within general conversation as an instruction to play some music, phone someone, other task or to complain that it doesn't understand what is being asked of it. It's quite funny/annoying the way it keeps butting into conversation. The Mrs who is hard of hearing commented the other day she thought he was quite rude keep fiddling with his phone while we were all talking, I had to explain to her what was happening.

    2. Sherrie Ludwig

      Re: I'd just like to Nuke Siri

      for good on my MacBook. I do not want to enable it every time I accidentally brush the wrong key.

      I managed to permanently throttle the b1tch on my iPad mini within a few days of having the iThing. That finally made it fit for purpose for me. It was amusing that the last thing it said to me was "disabling this function may may it unable to be re-enabled in the future" Was it my imagination, or did it have a pout in its voice? I chuckled as I pressed the "Yes, disable" button.

  17. Barry Rueger

    But, but VR!

    Nonsense! Just wait til Zuckerberg convinces us all to use voice commands in our VR Meta space goggles!

    Who needs keyboards!

  18. Michael Strorm Silver badge

    ;'-(

    I'm almost as sad about this as I was about the demise of the obnoxiously wasteful consumerist gimmickry of the Amazon Dash buttons.

  19. evadnos nibor

    My neighbour's got one

    On a warm evening, with the little cylinder of woe on his patio table, he likes to deliver what we think of as an "Alexa punishment beating".

    "Alexa! Play Dire Straits..."

    That's us off to the pub

    1. Twanky Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: My neighbour's got one

      That's us off to the pub

      Do you sometimes step inside but you don't see too many faces?

      icon: mine's the one with cotton wool in the pockets.

    2. Andy 68

      Re: My neighbour's got one

      On his patio?

      Well can't you just keep shouting back: "Alexa, play Devastator" ?

      1. Elongated Muskrat

        Re: My neighbour's got one

        "Alexa, order 300 pairs of incontinence pants"

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: My neighbour's got one

          ""Alexa, order 300 pairs of incontinence pants""

          Have a sense of humor and order 300 glow-in-the-dark french tickler condoms. Flavored or unflavored is up to you.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What........No Mention Of The Invasive......

    ......Amazon Ring???????

    ......Huge sigh of relief from PC Plod!!!!!!

  21. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge

    Dead silence

    These devices will eventually succeed, but they'll not be coming from Big Tech since they're not monetizable in any significant way. And the idea that all my conversations will be sent to Big Tech Central gives me the creeps and I vowed never to buy one.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Dead silence

      " but they'll not be coming from Big Tech since they're not monetizable in any significant way."

      Really? Rent an imagination for an afternoon and ponder. Some good spy novels could give you ideas too. There's one non-fiction book I like titled "Spy Catcher" from one of the original MI-5 tech staff Peter Wright. There's more ways than just charging somebody a monthly fee to monetize something.

  22. Johnb89

    But the data

    Ok, so the agreement here is that WE don't like Alexa etc. But if Amazon doesn't like it does that mean that data harvesting isn't as lucrative as they had hoped? Listening to our ramblings in the house doesn't yield monetisable insights?

    Or is their processing of all that as unreliable as searching on Amazon for a thing, as others have noted, where searching for a thing presents me with such a collection of rubbish, mishits and price variety that I can't be bothered to try to make sense of it all?

    Also... you forgot Bixby! That assistant with the unmissable un-unprogrammable button on at least a few generations of Samsung phones!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But the data

      That's the button with superglue in it on any sensible person's phone.

    2. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

      Re: But the data

      Bixby is exactly why my new phone is a Motorola. HINT HINT SAMSUNG!

    3. Chet Mannly

      Re: But the data

      5 minutes with ADB and Bixby, along with all the other Samsung bloatware is a distant memory....

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: But the data

        "5 minutes with ADB and Bixby, along with all the other Samsung bloatware is a distant memory...."

        Apple Desktop Bus?

        Yeah, I'm old.

  23. dogcatcher

    Talking to a computer?

    At my age, I'm not about to talk to an inanimate object, I have enough trouble in talking to myself. Anyway, these things have to be biased and prejudiced. Asking Ms. Alexa for a cheap thrill will always send me to Amazon, whereas Ebay do them for 50% less.

  24. DXMage

    Slightly?

    "slightly creepy vision of surveillance capitalism" It should be stated as “nightmarishly creepy as hell” or more accurately “nightmarishly dystopian level of capitalism”. The fact that they have people listening in to everything going on as part of their job. That everything stated near the devices is recorded and tucked away somewhere and in many cases if you want to remove the recordings how can you be sure they were removed? That is assuming you can find a menu option to remove them? It isn’t as if these companies haven’t lied at every single turn along the way. How can they be trusted when they break the law at every turn and at best just get a fine imposed that is typically not even 1% of the profit taken from breaking the law.

    Now let’s add to the fact that many if not a HUGE majority simply find talking to a computer aggravating at best. But talking to a computer with other people present typically is embarrassing and many people are self-conscious even in private talking to the computer assistant as they know that there is the real possibility that someone will listen and judge them for what they are saying and how they are saying it. As there isn’t any real privacy with these devices around. These companies need to face the fact that it isn’t Star Trek where people just say “Computer, scan the management of these companies for intelligence.” And the computer responds with “No intelligence found.”

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Slightly?

      Arguments about dystopian surveillance capitalism aside...why should talking to a computer be 'aggravating at best'. Talking is natural - we use it as a means of communicating wishes all the time. You wouldn't send an email to your partner at dinner asking them to pass the salt, so why on earth would you see saying 'computer turn the heating up a degree' embarrassing?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Slightly?

        'computer turn the heating up a degree' embarrassing?"

        Because computer does not *understand* any of it, really.

        It would be like talking to a moron: You say something and it does whatever it pleases because it didn't understand what you *wanted*. Total opposite of another human, in most cases.

        'Which room?', 'a degree' celsius or fahrenheit? 'How I do that?' etc. ad nauseautum: The level of spesific instructions needed is infinite and there's no repeat -button either, you need to give all the details every time.

        "Alexa, go to shop x, buy me one quart of fatless milk from brand y and if they don't have it, replace it with brand z'. Every time. Instead of having a bookmark to page and pressing 'add to cart'.

        1. ThunderCougarFalconBird

          Re: Slightly?

          In my house, the smart thermostat controls the temperature in the entire house using multiple sensors. And since the thermostat temperature scale is set by the thermostat, a degree is understood to be in what ever the scale is being used by the thermostat. So if I say, Alexa, raise the temperature by 1 degree, she knows to tell the smart thermostat to increase the temperature in the HOUSE by 1 degree Fahrenheit! It really is that simple. Alexa operates with external smart systems via a program supplied by whatever smart system it's talking to.. As for shopping, the smart speaker will use whatever stores you set up in the system. And if you've purchased the fatless milk from a specific brand before through your smart speaker, it will attempt to do so again. If it's not available, it has no way of knowing until it looks for it. Then, depending on whatever shopping app you use, it may come back to you and ask you for an alternative if one is available.

  25. steelpillow Silver badge
    Mushroom

    You don't say

    The dot-coms believed their own hype. They are so arrogant they think that dumbing-down product is just fine; it works for sales, advertising and helpdesks, doesn't it? The poor lusers eventually click through and out, the AI reports success and the dot-com actually believes the shit they programmed into it. It never occurs to them that we went away because they deliberately ring-fenced genuine intelligence off from us and left us with the Turing-test failure from hell. Now we are walking away from voice "assistants" for exactly the same reason. The smarts are as utterly unintelligent as they were a decade ago and gilding the edges a bit more has failed to hide the stinking turd within.

    Back in the day - 1980s? - the motor industry tried putting voice assistants in cars. It got to the point of being parodied by prime-time comedians such as Dave Allen before being quietly dropped.

    Tip to the industry: get the I bit of AI actually happening before you try this scam on us again. If you have a niche you want to serve in the meantime, cut your ambitions down to to a level where the thing can actually offer a robust experience.

    1. Michael Strorm Silver badge

      Re: You don't say

      > Back in the day - 1980s? - the motor industry tried putting voice assistants in cars.

      For a modern reader used to smartphones, "voice assistants" probably makes it sound more sophisticated than it was (or could have been back then)! AFAIK these were essentially a basic (and one-way only) voice notification facility using 1980s-level speech synthesis.

      That would still have been state of the art at the time though, and I'd certainly have been impressed if I'd ever seen one of them as a kid.

      I do vaguely remember hearing about them, and that a friend of the family knew someone with one in an Austin Maestro (or whatever) he ended up trying to disable the speech on because it drove him mad.

      I found a video of one online. To be fair, the actual quality of the speech synthesis is really quite good for the early-to-mid 80s, and it doesn't come across as *that* bad an idea in theory.

  26. Gorpalm

    It's a radio not a robot.

    They're great as a smart radio - listen to broadcast stuff, or your own streaming services, podcasts, check the weather, set an alarm or reminder - that kind of thing.

    Trying to trojan-horse the tech - sell it into homes at cost, make it into your indispensable "assistant", take more of your money forever and ever bwahhaha, was an aspiration too far. What were they going to do - charge you a subscription for streaming your subscription service?

  27. Martin Summers

    If they wanted to monetise it properly, it amazes me they've not started charging the likes of TP-Link for access to the platform so that people can use their equipment. That should be where they're getting the money from and not trying to push unwanted useless features at us, and some would allege spying on our habits. These smart device manufacturers are making bank on their hardware that most of the time uses the likes of Alexa to function and Amazon are making nothing from that relationship. For the most part they really are a solution looking for a problem. It's not like they're even frictionless within their own product range. I caved and bought a blink doorbell as it was really cheap. Does it work as I imagined it would and pop up on the waste of money that is the echo show I purchased? Does it heck.

    I'm not surprised it's not going anywhere if they can't even make it work for their own products. They went into more depth on this lossmaker on Ars. If the new boss really doesn't care much for Alexa then I imagine it won't be long before he stems the billions of pounds of losses and pulls the plug for all other than Prime subscribers.

  28. AJames

    Questionable reporting

    Like the Ars Technica article yesterday, The Reg quotes the paywalled Business Insider article as their source, and draws some questionable conclusions.

    Alexa is said to losing a lot of money for Amazon, but in fact the figure quoted is for Amazon's worldwide digital division, which includes things like content production for Amazon Prime. Echo hardware is said to be losing a lot of money, but of course all of Amazon's subsidised devices lose money for reasons that make sense to Amazon, and again the figure quoted is for the hardware group overall, not for Echo.

    Before jumping to reactions, we should all question the information a bit more closely. Surely we've learned that in 2022.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Voice assistants are not doing it for big tech

    next big thing: levitating sex toys. After that: 6D 16K, wallpaper tellies. Next: AI speaking toilets. Followed by: rent-a-life. Etc, etc.

    1. Marty McFly Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Voice assistants are not doing it for big tech

      > wallpaper tellies.

      That is not a new idea. Look up "parlor walls" in Fahrenheit 451 from 1953. Story of a dystopian future, where censorship is destroying knowledge.

      Actually, we aren't from either of those aspects right now. Perhaps the only thing Bradbury missed was the concept of the Internet, with his perspective being limited to written literature.

      1. Elongated Muskrat

        Re: Voice assistants are not doing it for big tech

        Now, if only there was another novel, written in 1948 that had the idea of a dystopia with "view screens" that watched you back. Of course, that book was never written, and we have always been at war with Eastasia.

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Voice assistants are not doing it for big tech

        Did Bradbury get the notion tbat we'd actually pay to have all this surveillance gear installed and then pay a monthly sub to cover its operating costs?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Voice assistants are not doing it for big tech

      “ levitating sex toys”

      Like something that goes up by power of thought? Already done.

    3. Richard Pennington 1
      Big Brother

      Re: Voice assistants are not doing it for big tech

      A couple of years ago, someone actually did come up with (see what I did there...) an internet-enabled dildo, complete with camera and associated illumination ...

  30. Franco Silver badge

    I have an Echo Dot (that I was gifted, didn't buy) and barely use it. It's useful as a timer in the kitchen or for listening to music when I'm cooking, but getting it to play music I didn't buy via Amazon or even play music I bought ahead of music Amazon say I don't own and ask me if I would like to buy it is a PITA.

    I got one as a gift for my Mum and she loves it, but only uses it as a radio. Combination of where she lives, where her kitchen is and an older house means poor radio reception so she loves the Echo for that, and also uses it as timer or for a shopping list which syncs to her phone.

    However I keep mine turned off due to the frequent "I'm sorry, I ddin't catch that" when I haven't said anything, never mind anything directed at the Echo, and it's not great with Scottish accents, even ones that aren't particularly broad like mine.

    Used to use Cortana on my Windows Phone, purely in place of Shazam, as it was much better than Shazam. Feature was pulled when MS killed off Groove Music though.

  31. xyz Silver badge

    I'm Scottish...

    Nothing understands me.

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: I'm Scottish...

      Including the English?

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: I'm Scottish...

      "I'm Scottish...

      Nothing understands me."

      Stay out of VA lifts.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cA6ektXRVak

  32. Il'Geller

    Amazon initially has been using an erroneous technology based on the complete disregard of the contexts (language segments, words and phrases), which were tightly tied to strictly defined actions and answers. Seems like now Amazon uses (or just publicly tells that uses, for pure advertising purposes) these contexts, and we can expect Alexa to become much better soon.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Alexa Is still as thick as a plank.

    Me: Alexa, what is playing on my echo

    Alexa: X is playing

    Me: Alexa, continue playing X here on my echo dot

    Alexa: What would you like me to play?

    Really, the best they can do after 10+ years of development?

  34. Marty McFly Silver badge
    Facepalm

    My friend's Alexa

    We hang out at our friends house on a regular basis. I have seen Alexa used for precisely two things:

    1) Set a timer for whatever is cooking.

    2) Getting called out to play Wheeler Walker Junior.

    Seriously. One of the guys will shout out "Alexa, play Wheeler Walker Junior". Then the girls will roll their eyes and head to the other room. Then someone will say "Alexa, all speakers, level 10".

    Usually this is after the third round of drinks. That is really all I ever see Alexa used for. A toy at a party.

  35. bertkaye

    slip of the ear

    Alexa, no no no no. I said fix the HAT, not fix the cat. Oh pussy, I'm truly sorry. Does it hurt much?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: slip of the ear

      Alexa, walk the dog. And when you get back, give my pussy a good workout, too, OK?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: slip of the ear

        Come in, Mrs. Slocombe, your time is up.

  36. captain veg Silver badge

    mentioned it before, but...

    A while ago I inadvertently turned on the so-called voice "assistant" on my phone (LineageOS, but with Google "services" installed*), which turned off the on-screen keyboard.

    I told it to (verbatim) "fuck off and give me the keyboard back". I was using the Google Maps app at the time. It responded by declaring that it was "searching for nearby pie shops" (possibly not verbatim, apart from the pie shops).

    -A.

    *This was a mistake which I massively regret.

    1. Martin Summers

      Re: mentioned it before, but...

      But did you go to the pie shop?

      1. captain veg Silver badge

        Re: did you go to the pie shop?

        I probably would have done, had it found any. It's really hard to find a proper pie in France.

        -A.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Never needed one

    Still don’t need one.

  38. kschrock

    Alexa

    She is great, and I use her often. However, 90% of the usage are things like "set a timer for 30 minutes" and "what is the square root of 396" or "set a reminder for 10 pm every day to take my medication". These work great, and and they don't give Amazon any useful advertising data. As far as food, Borscht gives you a list of 274 Borscht recipes, which is not handy. Worst, if you choose a recipe, she reads it to you in a clumsy fashion that is not handy. Alexa should have had a screen from day one. On top of all that. none of these things makes Amazon any money. Where you make money is selling product. That part of her has been turned up to 9.9. This has been the ruination of Alexa. She has become Danny Davito in Tin Men. A drunken, pushy, obnoxious New Jersey used car salesman on meth.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Alexa

      "On top of all that. none of these things makes Amazon any money. Where you make money is selling product."

      Where they make money is selling information. If you go head first into their ecosystem, they have your music tastes, movies, shopping, inquiries, contact list, calendar and on and on. Since we can keep our phone numbers for ages these days, it's become a serial number and very long lasting. In very short oder with your contact list they have your network. What doctor do you have, dentist, accountant. If you have kids, you probably have the phone number for the school in your contacts along with an email address for the kid's teacher(s). A cross reference and a scan of the school website will show what grade(s) that the teacher teaches and brackets your children's ages. All of the information they can harvest and derive is often of value to somebody. Even if they only make 25p it's still worth it as it's automated. For a high profile person/family, the cost goes up since some information will be sought manually, but the price goes up as well.

  39. Pirate Dave Silver badge

    The problem

    My problem is that these services send the data out to whatever web-Giant it is that processes the voice signals. That's why I never use them. Now, were these things STRICTLY local-only, like the old Dragon Naturally Speaking, or the computer on NCC-1701 Enterprise, and didn't send data out to Amazon, Google, Microsoft, etc, I'd likely use them, whether for shopping or because I'm too lazy to get up and walk 10 feet to flip a light switch. But that is unlikely to happen as there isn't much profit (ie- ad revenue) in such a local-only system. So as long as they're web-based and feeding who knows what data to their masters, I will never knowingly use them and will do all I can to disable them in any devices I buy (ie - FireStick remote).

  40. KimJongDeux

    Oh Alexa

    From a couple of years back, a cartoon in Private Eye. Proud tech bro: "Alexa order two pounds of pork sausages and an armature" Alexa: "OK. Just a reminder there are now five pictures of your dick on the internet".

  41. steviebuk Silver badge

    And this is why it should be law...

    ...that all such devices CAN run locally and never require an Internet connection. This then means when Amazon decide "This isn't worth it anymore, Alexa is coming to an end. All your devices will no longer work". When that happens people in the know can continue to run the devices as they see fit. Independent engineers can sell their service to "Setup your home Alexa with no Internet required". During this Amazon can still sell these to people who don't want to setup their own local setup and don't want to pay an engineer.

    Everyone wins. I think more people would buy Alexa shit if it didn't require the Internet and could just be run locally. They are all missing a trick.

  42. Smitter

    Hey Google … You Got Basic Usability Problems!

    The problem with the entire category is that they haven’t figured out that:

    A) they are JUST a new type of input device and

    B) nobody is using it because it’s buggy AF!

    Listening to my wife try to add items to our shopping list (Hey Google doesn’t understand, try again), play a song (that song is not available, especially on Google music), or simply trying to figure out why I can’t get my Philips Hue lights to turn on (network problems, maid turned off the mic, guests using the wrong command). And Heaven forbid there’s any type of background noise (dish washer running, people talking at a party).

    Instead of whining about people not using these voice assistants for buying stuff, why don’t you double down on fixing the basic usability problems. In my experience it works about 50-60% of the time, for myriad technical reasons, and until you improve that success ratio it’s not gonna be an integral part of our lives!

    Bottom Line: we are not using it for more interesting stuff because we CAN’T … not because the demand isn’t there! Fix the basic usability issues!!

    1. Sherrie Ludwig

      Re: Hey Google … You Got Basic Usability Problems!

      A) they are JUST a new type of input device and

      B) nobody is using it because it’s buggy AF!

      If I wanted to shout in an irritated, overly enunciated voice multiple times to get a "sorry, repeat that", all I need to do is attempt to converse with my husband when his hearing aids are out of charge. No external devise needed. But the chance that he eventually does what I asked is much higher, and he makes excellent coffee.

  43. localzuk Silver badge

    Low accuracy

    Considering Alexa randomly forgets that the one in my bedroom has a screen which I turn on/off when I wake up/go to sleep "sorry, there is no device called display", and sometimes decides that I'm saying off when I'm saying on, why would I trust it to do things that cost me money?!

    No better with my parents' house either. They have a lamp where the base is shaped like a rabbit. So, they called that device "rabbit". Saying "Alexa, Rabbit on" will randomly - play Rabbit by Chas and Dave, play rabbit noises, or turn the light on. Chas and Dave now feature in my Dad's recommended playlists a lot...

  44. Elongated Muskrat

    Think of it as a dry run for them "Metaverse"

    A loss-leader, heavily promoted with advertising that offers nothing of any real use, and which nobody wants.

    Anyone wanna buy a 3D TV? It has built-in HD-DVD and a handy compact flash card slot!

  45. AndrueC Silver badge
    Meh

    If/when the tech ever becomes as good as 'Harriet' in Frederick Pohl's Heechee Saga wake me up. A digital personal assistant of that calibre would be worth having and by implication could be a source of revenue for the provider. But we're a long way yet from that kind of program.

    1. john.w

      Her?

      Or 'Her' (2013) but then it did have Scarlett Johansson to picture in one's minds eye.

  46. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge

    Commited

    "We are as commited as alway"...until we pull the plug. Which can be tomorrow or any day in the near future.

    Don't buy into this PR nonsense. It's pretty clear from Amazon's layoffs that they're already maneuvering to shut-down the Alexa division.

  47. withQuietEyes

    Does *anyone* shop online without doing price comparisons? Ever?

    Just on a basic level, the Amazon search results are so wildly varied that I can't imagine anyone trying to shop via voice. Then again, the only people I know who use an Alexa are my grandparents, and they don't shop online at all!

    My mother and grandmother use voice things to set kitchen timers, my grandparents have a single command they use to play a particular news report that they like (basically to hit play on a podcast), and my dad occasionally uses his to look up little history factoids. That's about it.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Does *anyone* shop online without doing price comparisons? Ever?

      I rarely do price comparisons. Spending a half hour to save $.60 is stupid. A big additional problem can be the item is on the other side of the country. For the US, that can be a much bigger issue. Is it worth waiting an extra few days to get the item to save the change? I also don't shop at all through Amazon. If I buy something on eBay that is drop shipped from Amazon, that seller gets a ding since they likely didn't mention that in their listing.

  48. nautica Bronze badge
    Holmes

    No matter what SHE says the reason is...the real reason is ALWAYS money!

    "..."We are as committed as ever to Echo and Alexa, and will continue to invest heavily in them..."

    Horse-shit.

    Uh-huh...and one supposes that this is PRECISELY why they have paid Oprah to shill for Echo and Alexa on Yahoo and CNET?

    "...When within earshot of an Amazon Alexa smart speaker, just say, "Alexa, let's shop Oprah's favorite things." Oprah will then list and describe products she's keen on promoting, in her own words. You can then reply "yes" to buy the thing or "no" to continue to the next featured product..."

    https://www.cnet.com/tech/tech-industry/alexas-and-oprahs-voice-will-help-holiday-shoppers-this-season/

    https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/oprah-echo-show-15-black-friday-2022-232106615.html

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: No matter what SHE says the reason is...the real reason is ALWAYS money!

      How sad do you have to be to buy something just because someone you've never met likes it?

      1. nautica Bronze badge
        Holmes

        Re: No matter what SHE says the reason is...the real reason is ALWAYS money!

        "How sad do you have to be to buy something just because someone you've never met likes it?"

        Well said.

        I probably would have chosen another word, however; "certifiable" immediately comes to mind...the same word I use to describe those cretins who have no concept of what real work is, and who could only exist in our society which has been irretrievably corrupted by antisocial media; and who are are called...influencers.

  49. jollyboyspecial Bronze badge

    The simple problem with voice shopping is it's difficult. It's not the buying that's difficult, it's browsing for the products in the first place that's difficult. It's much, much easier to browse for something on your phone or laptop than to try to do it via a voice assistant. And it's blindingly obvious that would be the case, which makes me wonder who thought of it in the first place.

    It reminds me of the idea a few years ago that we should control our TVs and other devices by gesture rather than using a remote. Douglas Adams had already pointed out decades earlier what the obvious shortcoming of this would be - that you would have to sit infuriatingly still while watching TV (or in Adams' original, listening to the radio). And that's not to mention how many complicated gestures you would need to control a modern TV. But there were still folk in the industry who invented time and money in the concept.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "Douglas Adams had already pointed out decades earlier what the obvious shortcoming of this would be "

      That's just another reason why we should have been working on cloning before Douglas passed away. He could grind through the glossy concepts and see their fatal flaws so easily that we really could have used a few dozen more of him around.

  50. bitdivine

    The ease of voice assist just highlights the barriers that companies build around their walled gardens. Whenever I want it to be a really useful engine, it comes back with "Oh no, I couldn't possibly do that because <enter some commercial reason here>. AI has advanced enough that there seem to be some pretty good open source alternatives available now that just do as they are told.

    I just need a raspberry pi and a good speaker and microphone. Anyone know how to excerebrate an Alexa? It could have a bright future...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: IBM Engineer...

      I love the fact that just occasionally new words pop up on the register. That's a new one on me, I like it!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: IBM Engineer...

      hammer

  51. Mike Lewis

    Perhaps it's just me but...

    I find speaking to a computer is weird. The one time it would be useful doesn't work. When using Google Maps in the car, saying "OK Google, I know where I am now" or "OK Google, Maps off" do not silence it.

  52. ThunderCougarFalconBird

    I use Alexa, just not for shopping

    I've been using Alexa ever since it came out in Beta a bunch of years ago. I was intrigued with a device in the home that could interpret the spoken command and react to what was said. Since then, I've built up my Alexa by turning my home into a Smart Home. Lights, thermostat, door and cameras are all controlled by Alexa. I also rely heavily on Alexa to answer spur of the moment questions...like, "Is it going to rain today?" Or "what's 250 divided by 4?" this reliance is noticeable when Alexa is not available...like when I'm driving (I don't have Alexa Auto) or when on vacation. I have an Echo device in every room in the house, including the garage, basement and bathrooms. She wakes me up in the morning and puts me to sleep at night. She makes sure the house is locked up and tells me when she detects a breakin or a smoke detector going off. I'm so entrenched with Alexa, I'm not sure I could live without this device!

    1. Michael Habel

      Re: I use Alexa, just not for shopping

      I'm not quite this entrenched to that degree yet. But, by damnit I'm getting there! But, most of these "Skills" are on the hole largely free, as such they are obviously failing to make anyone anyricher outside of the odd device sale. a sale on which Scamazon must be taking a bath on. that said, Scamazon can, and have, and will continue to rake in their continual stack of Nickels, and Dimes from me. Just likely not from Alexa though.

  53. EricB123 Bronze badge

    I love happy endings

    A grand day indeed. People voting agsinst distopian gadgets with their wallets.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd be interested in seeing the breakdown of Amazon's costs for Alexa. How much is to do with eternal storage of all that voice data?

  55. Sp1z

    Wrong angle

    A $3bn loss is a rounding error when you consider the value of having a microphone in millions of households.

    Sure, they only respond to wake words... At the moment.

  56. Michael Habel

    The only use, and or money spinner for my Alexa, outside of the live Weather App, which if I recall was a 6€ subscription. has been mostly in home automation products. the only time I "talk" to my Alexa is to tell her to "Hit the Light", or to eventually "Kill them". If Bozos, can spin a dime from that, more power to him. As for Shopping on Amazon, something I do far to regularly I may add, but with niche brick & mortar stores, going by the wayside, looking at you Conrad Electronics. I'm not about to waste time on Chinese tat Bizarres such as Aliexpress, or shudder Fleabay. At least Scamazon have a decent return policy in place. That said, having a PC / Phablet to hand, it just hasn't simply occurred to me to buy stuff from my Echo, and will probably continue to be that way.

  57. Tron

    This won't end well.

    I hope they keep producing them for visually impaired folk who need them. But the likelihood is that they will simply axe them entirely due to 'inflation/covid/supply chains/Ukraine'.

  58. Jason Hindle

    A failure to consider intangibles?

    There might not be a direct link between Alexa and the sale of a bit of tat, but how much more (or less) are Alexa users engaged with Amazon in a broader sense?

  59. john.w

    "We are as committed as ever.....

    The sort of statement of support every football manager dreads.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem...

    ...the way I see it, is that voice assistants are extremely limited in what they can actually do and they are typically platform locked to some degree. On the flip side, a lot of things we do on computers typically aren't designed to be used by machines which in itself can be incredibly limiting.

    Finally, the last nail as it were is that voice assistants cannot run on local devices, you have rely on a master cluster of machines in the "cloud". As I understand it, this isn't because NLP is particularly resource intensive, it is to protect the datasets used to train the AI.

  61. gnasher729 Silver badge

    Learning opportunity: Your customers or non-customers have no obligation to act the way your marketing department wants them to act.

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The use case is very limited. How long does it take before you realize that it is quicker and easier to get what you want from a mouse and keyboard strategically placed in the home, with possibly multiple units for larger homes.

    The number of times I have felt the urge to spend several hundred dollars so I could say "Alexa, play Foo" and have it play the wrong thing yet again and fail to do it through my decidedly non-BluOS devices? Zero.

    I've never felt the urge to use Microsoft's assistant on Windows 10 or 11, either, and I've had free access to those for several years going on a decade. Ditto Google's voice assistant on my Android device.

    I consider voice input rude in an office setting, the same as using a speaker phone outside a conference room (yes, that includes your oh-so-important cell phone call, Mr. PHB.)

    My customers would LYNCH me if I were to rely on such an insecure service to deliver MY services to them!

  63. Inventor of the Marmite Laser

    Has it really taken them this long to get a grip on what was pretty bleeding obvious to most of us pretty much from day one?

  64. navarac

    Another advert delivery device

    Just another way to flood us with adverts. No thank you.

  65. Boring Bob

    Walk into a friend's house and ask Alexia what are the last three items you have bought. Then when you get home unplug yours.

  66. Binraider Silver badge

    Different vectors to order stuff have no bearing on the list of things people want to consume.

    Need another packet of green chillies? I'll add that to next weeks shopping list.

    I'm certainly not going to order one "now" over Alexa at vastly inflated price plus delivery when I can walk the 300 yds round the corner to get them.

  67. heyrick Silver badge

    Far be it for me to have an opinion

    Since I don't have a listening device installed in my home, but surely one of the useful things about online shopping is the ability to see what you're supposed to be getting? To browse the reviews, particulary the one-star ones to note potential issues, and to perform a direct comparison between similar items? Giving instructions to a speaker might only work if you aren't that bothered what actually arrives. One might say "Oi, thingy, order me two packets of pancake mix" but one would never say "Hey, thingy, order me a new fridge please".

    Not to mention, the inherent creepiness of a device that's always listening and may or may not be passing recordings back to the mothership.

  68. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

    They are crap.

    Like 3D TV, they'll be back in 30 years. And they'll be crap then too.

  69. Kev18999

    Asking the right question is harder than using Google then your platform isn't good enough.

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