I recently accepted something about myself: I really like gizmos. Like many men, I have a tremendous ability to justify small investments in toys under the auspices that they are tools. I convince myself (rather easily) that these gadgets are going to significantly improve the quality of my life. I bring them home like a proud retriever with a dead rat in its mouth, expecting high praise. More often than not I am greeted with an eye-roll. And, more often than not, my wife is right. It could be worse, I suppose…I could have an expensive habit like horses 😉
From time to time, however, I come home with something that is actually useful rather than some half-baked piece of useless trash. Recently, Elisa and I have invited two new digital assistants into our house: Alexa and Roi.
‘Alexa’ the Echo
Alexa is an Amazon Echo. She’s a voice-activated virtual assistant who has done a lot to help us manage common shopping and task lists, in addition to being our DJ, weather man, traffic reporter, and news desk. For a long time, the Amazon Echo has only been available to Amazon Prime Members (I waited for months before it was my turn to get one), but it is now available to everyone. There is an Alexa channel for IFTTT, which means that it already has a lot of connected-home potntial. This past week, Amazon opened the Echo up to developers, and so I expect to see it’s utility rapidly increase in the coming months.
But all this is geek stuff. At the end of the day, what REALLY matters is that my wife likes the device and uses it daily. One of the biggest challenges for us (as for many horse couples) is coordinating tasks and schedules. Many of the technological solutions I have suggested or tried in the past have failed, because they haven’t fit well into my wife’s daily equestrian workflow. Alexa works because she works for both of us.
‘Roi’ the Roomba
Let’s face it: horsewomen are dirty. To make matters worse, Elisa and I literally live in a barn. To make matters even worse, we have three dogs. I don’t want to overstate the case here. Our apartment is typically pretty tidy, but the fur-and-dirt-on-floor battle has been a losing one. Sweeping works, but really needs to be done every day in order for walking around barefoot to be tolerable.
Roi (‘Return on Investment)’ is a Roomba 650. After getting Roi a week ago, our floors have never been cleaner. I expected the dogs to freak out, but they have quickly come to ignore him. Every day when I come home from work, while Elisa and the dogs are finishing up in the barn, I turn on Roi (wait…that sounds bad) and let him zip around while I get dinner ready, or make myself a cocktail, or write a blog post…or all three.
Like Alexa, Roi is one of those few gadgets that has real utility. It has decreased the amount of housework we have to do (or ignore) each day, and so has increased the the amount of quality time Elisa and I have to spend together in the evenings. For busy and passionate people who work long hours, it can be difficult to carve out time for each other. Little digital entities like Alexa and Roi can provide a little bit of welcome help.