Alexa Changed my Life AND Has Almost Stopped TXTing and Driving

Crushing It CoverI first installed Alexa on my iPhone back in ’18 after reading the @garyvee book Crushing It: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence and How You Can Too.

I knew about Voice First Technology of course. I had been using Siri for ages and played round with Cortana which was a little less impressive. I just didn’t feel I needed it on my laptop. I still touch-type fast.

When Alexa started connected to my WiFi and Bluetooth displays, things changed. I had a mix of audio and video in the rooms in the house where I wanted it. Then there’s my car.

I didn’t get to CES 2018 unfortunately but I didn’t really need to. I got the picture from videos.

A big difference was getting Alexa in my car.

Navdy goneOf course I already had my Navdy, which had hand gestures but the company went under as I was waiting for my software update, because the navigation maps were no longer current. I can’t tell you how gutted I was about that. I’m still using it, but a lot of the new freeways and subdivisions aren’t on it. With Alexa a lot of the the other features are now redundant.

Anyway, two major things happened.

One is how my life has changed with VFT and the other is that distracted driving accidents from people TXTing and driving have reduced by about 10% each year for the last 5 years and its not because of driverless cars. They STILL haven’t become popular. I guess people still enjoy the drive. I still do, that’s why I have a Corvette right? I didn’t buy a muscle machine so it could drive me.

This is a little bit of what my day looks like with Alexa

I wake naturally, I have a good body clock. I ask Alexa the weather. She says its 11 degrees (That’s just under 52 degrees for my American readers.) and we are heading for a high of 15 C.

I get her to turn up the climate control for the lounge dining area and go to the bathroom where she is connected to my shower speaker from AliExpress and get my personalized news. I have a mix of New Zealand news as well as CNN and BBC.

Then its time for a traffic report. It’s school holidays so it is only going to take me half an hour to travel the 12 km to work, that’s great. I can linger over breakfast (asking her to add milk and English muffins to my grocery list) and dictate my morning vlog.

20160507_153136 (2)I get Alexa to open the garage door and unlock my front door and the car, she points out that I am not carrying my phone and gives it a quick chirp so I know where it is.

I start up my driveway to work, confirming she has locked the front door and closed the garage door, all the lights are off as is the electric towel rail which I always used to forget to switch off! ; and I get her to open Spotify (yes I’m still using it) and start my Daily Playlist 5.

I don’t use Alexa much at work, except while I am walking to the Sushi shop the long way and listen to a podcast. It’s an open plan office.

On the way home, I use it to ask Gaspy where the cheapest 98 octane fuel is for my car. It’s getting very expensive and not many gas stations have it any more.

When I have my tank full ($150! Petrol is heavily taxed and way more expensive than in the US or just about anywhere else in the world), I turn on the heat pump at home to 24 degrees so the house will be nice and warm when I get in and turn on the front door and hall lights.

She opens the garage door and front door as I’m getting ready to reverse into the garage.

My wife isn’t due home for another hour so I get Alexa to order our usual Chinese takeout from Uber Eats for 7 PM. I’m not much of a cook and we couldn’t cook a meal cheaper than that for two anyway.

Getting changed I ask Alexa for another news update and for my fitness info. I only walked 3,000 steps today, a little over 3 KM. Most of that was the 2 km circuit I do after I buy my sushi.

I then play a quick game of poker online and use Alexa to translate the Portuguese that the Brazilians are talking because it frustrates me that I can’t understand them and they often dominate the table. Then I get Alexa to translate my English and dictate it back to them, telling them to pull their heads in. They lol.

We sit down for dinner in the lounge and Alexa finds where we are at on Suits Series 12 and casts it on the 85″ TV that I finally managed to get spousal approval for, on the basis that the US Tennis Open would look so much better on the 16k TV screen. The resolution is way better than being there and the sound is amazing. I’m still frustrated that they are not broadcasting 3D, but she doesn’t like it anyway.

Bedtime and Alexa turns off the heat pump and the lights, as we leave the lounge. she confirms the front door is locked and it’s goodnight world.

Just another day.

 

 

 

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Surrounded by Screens From Bed to the Stage

I woke up Sunday morning (only just morning it was 11:30AM, the night after an awesome gig I played in town last night) to the melodic song of the Tui and chirrup of the Fantail I had sampled in my front yard on my iPhone last weekend, played through the bedroom surround speakers, all but invisibly mounted in the ceiling corners of my bedroom walls.

I tapped on the bedside touchscreen, programming a flat white coffee to be ready in 20 minutes after I had my shower and selected the Billboard Country Top 100 to start playing in the bathroom, hoping there might be some new songs heading into the Top 10, like ‘If You’re Listening’, which I finally sold to Kelly Clarkson for her latest album. I swiped 23 degrees for the bathroom climate control and headed in for a shave. Hey, its winter and I like to be warm alright?

I could smell the aroma of the fair trade beans from my coffee as I walked into the dining room and flipped on my HoloDesk to check for news and see what my friends were up to this morning, thinking back to what an amazing night I’d had. I loved the HoloDesk, designed by my friend Kevin Andreassand of ICE AV in Auckland, which basically gave me all the benefits of an HD touch screen, but was projected in front of me as a hologram so that it wasn’t in the way of the dining table furniture. It was controlled by voice and hand gestures and one of Dropbox my favourite new tools ( think big boys toys).

As the first sips of coffee soothed my vocal chords which I had hammered last night with some raucous blues, I went to the fridge touchscreen and got it to sync with the pantry, placing an automatic grocery order with Countdown to be delivered that afternoon between 3 and 5. I was staying in today.

I’d planned last night’s gig for over a month and on the way in to the club last night I had quickly car Skyped my friends (the heads up display switched off the video when I put the car in gear) Andres Roots (in London recording a new album) and Charly Nice ( at his home studio in virtual Düsseldorf) who were going to be playing with me remotely, one of the benefits of the UFB project that finally brought high-speed internet into NZ. They were going to be joining me for the finally at about 12:30AM NZ time, gentlemanly hours for musos who played late and got up late.

I’d sent them links to the songs I had on the proposed set list and we had agreed on enough tracks so that we could build on the mood of the audience on the night and indulge ourselves as well, after all we’re musos. They came back with suggestions and some arrangement ideas and I synced them with my band tablets and put them up on Dropbox for the rest of the band to check out.

When I got to the club, I got out the music stand tablets, checked that the WiFi network was working and synced a copy to the sound engineer so that he could see the set lists and watch the music and lyrics we selected as we went through the night, including when the international guests would be joining us. I got my guitars out, caught up with the rest of the band, we ran sound checks and then did a sound check with Andres and Charly who were going to appear life-size on plasma screens with us.

I connected my guitars to the tablet on the stand in front of me with WiFi and using more of Andreassand’s IceAV technology, selected the virtual amps and effects I wanted, dragging them together with finger motions and syncing them to the pedal box at my feet.

Relaxing before the gig, we sent music videos to each other to check out, reminiscent of back in the day when people used to text each other in the same room, used our iPhones to order some light food and drinks from the bar and shot the breeze as you do.

I guess this has become a bit of a blog about the gig, rather than the screens, but I guess we take these things for granted today. Anyway this is my blog and I’ll tell it how it is:) So the highlight of the night for me was the last track.

I got out my Gibson Firebird XV (Looks very similar to the one to the left which I captured at the Memphis factory back in 2012) tapped on the touch screen at the top of the body telling it I wanted Open A tuning and selected a phat Marshall tube amp model, got out my original Tex Morton slide that came with my Tex Morton original guitar and had an amazing slide jam with Andres in London, with Charly playing some mean honking sax from his home in Düsseldorf. That Little Red Rooster crowed like all of its Christmas’ had come at once. 

The UFB meant that there was no lag in the music even though we were playing with guys who were on the other side of the world, it was amazing. As far as the audience were concerned they wouldn’t have known that we weren’t all in the same room and of course Andres and Charly were able to see and hear everything as of they were right there on the stage with us as it was all mic’d and video cameras were beaming it all back to them.

I was buzzing as I drove home, tapped the car entertainment system to play back the last set of the gig, through the in-car 7 speaker surround system, which had been recorded and instantly uploaded to my Spotify station, then tapped into my home controller to put the electric blanket and climate control on for when I got home at around 3AM, tired and satisfied. It had been a great night.

Facetiming home on the new Air New Zealand 787

Its a wonder that I flew with Air New Zealand again, I said several times in the past that I wouldn’t, given that their service just didn’t meet my expectations on many flights. I stopped flying with them other than for domestic flights a few years ago after the flight I blogged about to Rarotonga. Then was a gap of a couple of years before that after they left me sitting at San Francisco Airport for about 10 hours stuck with all my luggage when I flew in from Munich because Air NZ didn’t interconnect luggage with Lufthansa, which is a whole different story about a trip back in time. I had loads of plans to do sightseeing there, but all I saw was the inside of the airport for a day. I felt a bit like Tom Hanks in that old movie The Terminal. So other airlines got my business for a few years.

I remember when I first flew on an Air New Zealand flight that had the ability to use mobile data during domestic flights. I was quite excited to be on one of the first flights, but horrified when I saw the cost. From memory it was something  like $10 for 10MB.

Anyway, enough whinging I wanted to tell you about something cool on their new 787. When I got on the plane the other day, instead of having them tell me that I needed to turn my mobile off in case my phone told their fly-by-wire system to do a sudden bank, I was invited to connect my iPhone to create a local WiFi network with my in flight entertainment system. Nek minute I’m talking to my daughter using Facetime and then Skyping the hotel to tell them that my flight had been delayed and not to give my room to anyone else.

There was also an iPhone dock on the fold out table so that I could charge my mobile at the same time. Sorry Android lovers but the fact that Apple still has a uniform plug means that it continues to take pride of place in planes, cars and consumer electronics. Apple did release some new products with the new micro dock connector, but there was a huge resounding protest from people who couldn’t plug their new iPhones and iPods into their cars and home theatres, that it was dropped again.

There are rumours on Mashable, TechCrunch etc saying that next season’s iOS devices won’t have docks at all and will be totally wireless, including coming with Powermat chargers. This does make a lot of sense given that some car manufacturers have already supported this technology.Watch this space.

Remember Borders Book Stores?

Who’s next?

I was so excited when Borders arrived in New Zealand. I used to love going to the Borders stores on trips to the USA. There were frequently book signings, bands and recording artists, like the BB King autobiography launch in Chicago. You could read books in the cafe and no one would look at you as if to say don’t smudge that page, cause you’re buying it. People in the different departments knew about their topics and loved books and sharing their knowledge.

I walked past the site of the old Westfield Albany Borders store site yesterday, it had changed to Whitcoulls brand in 2012. A year later they were back in a much smaller site, obviously the sales volume didn’t cover the cost of such a big site. They had tried to embrace eBooks for a while, but selling expensive readers and not making it simple for your average reader to get books for them just further demolished their traditional business.

Meanwhile some of the smaller owner operator stores followed the example of retailers such as Pages & Pages in Australia, by installing eBook Kiosks in store back at the end of 2011.

In recent years eBook kiosks have arrived all over the place. They are in convenience stores, magazine stores, libraries, airports and train stations. They all come with their own WiFi network and are very user friendly.

Many combine loyalty and the profiling that we continue to enjoy from Amazon, giving us recommendations on what we may enjoy reading and the instructions are simple enough for most people to step through.

If you’re heading for a flight or will have time to read the book within 21 days you don’t even have to buy them any more. International libraries mean that pretty much any book you could want to read can be available to you on demand.

Personally a favorite feature for me is the international eBook gift registry system. I remember a couple of years ago when I was having a browse at the kiosk at Schiphol Airport on the way back from a location based marketing conference in Amsterdam and saw that my wife had prepaid for copy of the second in the new Stephen King Joyland series for me to read on the flight home. Just as well she doesn’t read King books though or I might never get her into an amusement park again!

The other thing I love about these kiosks is we now get books released all over the world at the same time, which was one of the reasons I used to buy my books from Amazon, I didn’t want to wait 2-3 months after the official US launch of King books before the publishers launched the new best seller here in New Zealand to coincide with Fathers’ Day.

Anyway, RIP Borders, you left too soon. It’s a shame you stopped innovating. You didn’t need to go under, you just needed to be smarter than the rest which you used to be. It’s funny how industries work so hard to create a self fulfilling prophesy that they can blame when things go wrong.

The cool thing is that people haven’t stopped reading. If anything they are reading more than ever and smart writers and publishers are doing very well:)