With technology becoming more present in our daily lives and our homes, UAHS students reflect on self-responding smart devices.

By Olivia Smith, ‘20 and Alexa Roberts, ‘21

While trying to put her crying nephew to sleep, senior Halle Neff soothed the crying baby by using her Amazon Alexa to play a lullaby. Neff owns both an Amazon Alexa and a Mini Google Home.

She recently purchased the Google Home, however, she has had the Alexa for around a year and finds these devices to be very handy when she doesn’t want to use her phone or have it nearby. Neff primarily uses the Alexa to get weather reports and play music, but it is also connected to her TV so she can use the Alexa to turn it on without a remote.

She prefers the speaking system of the Google Home over the Amazon Alexa because in order to wake the Google device you have to say “Okay, Google” whereas the Amazon device you simply say “Alexa,” which often gets triggered by other similar sounding words. 

“The [Amazon Alexa] has a lot of features and is super handy when you are really busy I use it when I babysit and can’t use my hands” Neff said.

Sophomore Colin Vanek had a different experience with his Alexa. He’s had it for almost a year and often uses it to check the weather forecasts. Vanek says his parents were checking the Alexa system and they discovered that it had saved some of their conversations within the app.

On the other hand, senior Will Root recalls minimal issues with his Alexa who has the echo devices throughout his house. He also has an Amazon Tap: a portable bluetooth speaker which he uses often.

“I use it to set an alarm for the next morning and then use it in the morning for the weather,” Root said.

Root finds the Echo convenient and recommends Alexas to anyone looking to add a smart device into their home. When asked about negative experiences, Root says he has seen the Echo turn on during conversations but he can’t describe a specific time he felt an invasion of privacy. 

The general release for the Amazon Echo, also known as Alexa, was June of 2015. Since the release, over 100 million Amazon Alexas have been brought into homes across America. The Google Home was released in the United States a little over a year later in November 2016.

In a voluntary Arlingtonian survey of 184 students, 48 percent of students have some type of smart device in their house while 36 percent have Amazon Alexas, ten percent have Google Homes and less than one percent have a different system. The most common uses for home devices among UAHS students is music, alarms or clock, news and weather.

One of the less common devices that students responded with was the Facebook Portal. Senior Adam Duhigg has had a Facebook Portal in his house for over a year. The Facebook portal is a screen that is set up inside a home and responds when you said “Hey, Portal.” Duhigg uses the device to play music and video call people through Facebook while his parents use it frequently for video chats. 

Duhigg placed this device in the kitchen which is the center of his house so that when he plays music he can hear it all throughout the house. When taking a video chat, he says the screen will zoom in on his face.

“Alexa and Google Home are way better because [they] answer your questions and the Portal is focused on Facebook so you can’t look up things” Duhigg said.