Alexa and Google in Our Home

In our home, we have a rule that there are no phones at the dinner table. We do this so everyone is paying attention to each other — not their phones. When a person has a phone at the table, it lets them be alone, even if they are sitting in a group. It gives that person a superpower to transport their mind to a completely different place. People are alone together (per Sherry Turkle):

Teenagers Alone Together

When you have an Amazon Echo or Google Home, that is another entity in the room. Some people are worried about how kids are being rude to Alexa and how they will bring this rudeness to their interactions with people. I think this is a red herring. It’s much easier for kids to deal with a free standing AI like Alexa than trying to teach children how to deal with a human being combined with a smartphone.

When the iPad came out, many of the reviews highlighted how useful it was for children. It’s the same way with voice assistants. The kids will do a lot of exploring. You’ll want to lock the machines down these down to prevent purchasing everything on Amazon. We’ve learned a lot from our kids’ explorations, most interestedly that there are songs called I Pooped and Diaper Baby.

For reference, our setup is two Google Home Mini’s that are each next to a Chromecast. We also have an Amazon Echo in the dining room table.

Some other things that we use the voice assistant for:

  • To check the weather
  • To play music
  • For the kids to watch their TV show on Netflix
  • To turn on and off the TV (Chromecast + Google Home)
  • As an intercom (between the Google Homes)

Update (2/10/2018): There’s a great video about politeness and Alexa called Southern Alexa.