For as much as a nerd as I claim to be, gadgets have never been my thing. I’m not one to follow all the new releases of the latest version of Android (regardless of what tasty treat it might be named after), and I think watching a video of someone unboxing a new tablet might be the most inane way to spend three and a half minutes that I can think of. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m 100 percent luddite, but just, ya know, supremely uninterested most of the time.
I say most of the time, because a recently announced gizmo has actually caught my eye. I’m talking of the Amazon Echo, which I’m hoping will be the first in a long line of light-up cylinders that I can train to talk dirty to me.
As far as I can tell, the Echo is basically a little speaker system that can recognize a user’s voice and respond to basic queries. These currently include telling the time, skimming through Wikipedia for trivia tidbits, and telling some god-awful corny jokes. Amazon also claims that the Echo is always adding additional functionality and learning more about the personalities of its users. Sort of like a mini Skynet that you can keep on the bedside table.
Though the Echo is already out and about in the world in a limited capacity, most of those looking to get their mitts on one will have to go through an opt-in process and wait to be invited to the privilege of coughing up $200 to own one — $100 if you’re already an Amazon Prime subscriber. After you’re selected, placing the actual order comes with an estimated shipping time of four to six months. Resources may actually be low enough to warrant these delays, but to me that seems like some sort of exclusivity ploy to inflate interest.
All that said, yeah, I fell for it. I forked over the $100 to scrawl my name on the waiting list. Oddly enough, my reasons for doing so seem to be the same reasons that many on the web have been giving to avoid the Echo — mainly that it’s nothing more than a novelty product in its current form. To which I say, no shit. Just look at the damn thing — it’s literally blinky lights, a soothing voice and a quarter the functionality of the world’s dumbest smart phone, tethered to a wall cord.
Do I really need a voice-activated robot to relay my grocery list to? Hell no. I have somehow managed to cope with the trials of daily life so far without a disembodied voice ready to tell me how many teaspoons make up a tablespoon, but dammit, I want some more unnecessary convenience in my life. And in the off chance that the Echo lives up to its promises of being able to learn from my “personal preferences,” then I am going to have one weird-ass cylinder ready to respond to friend’s questions when I have visitors. That’s reason enough for me.
The last gadget I want to buy is the one that provides another screen to carry connectivity around with me; I have enough of those already. The Echo seems to have just enough novelty packed in it to keep me interested and unengaged.
Sam Nixon’s “Words From a Nerd” runs every Wednesday in the Colorado Daily.