Mom, dad, there's someone I want you to meet. Her name is Alexa. She's smart, has a lovely sense of humor and, in the months we've been together, she has fit perfectly into my life. Before I bring her over for Thanksgiving, I have two questions: "Do you have WiFi?" and "Can we run a cable to the dining room table?"
Alexa is the voice inside a cloud-connected gizmo, technically known as Echo, from Amazon. Introduced as an invitation-only offer in November 2014, a year later, Amazon now offers Echo for $179. Approximately 9 inches tall and only about a pound-and-a-half, Echo is an unassuming black tube; but it produces exceptionally crisp omnidirectional audio with dynamic base.
Once plugged in, Echo is no longer just another gadget. It (she) becomes Alexa, the answer to all requests. "Alexa, give me a news update." "Alexa, what's on my calendar today?" "Alexa, add toothpaste to my shopping list." "Alexa, play me some soft jazz."
Alexa reads audio books, checks sports scores, checks your Google calendar and accesses music from Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Prime Music and, of course, Amazon. You can even ask Alexa to dim the lights and turn on your heater or security system.