Our Amazon Echo Dot arrived on Thursday. We’ve set it up in the kitchen. I feel that over the next few months I’ll change how I use it, so I thought it would be useful to record my first impressions.

It is quicker than I’d imagined. I asked it to play Radio 4 yesterday and in under 10 seconds, Woman’s Hour was playing. That is about the same time as it takes the DAB radio to start playing. So I was quite impressed.

The speaker itself is loud enough to be heard over most of our kitchen equipment. Interestingly we didn’t seem to be able to use a language prompt of “Alexa turn the volume to maximum” but had to give it a number between 1 and 10. It pleased me that “Alexa, turn the volume to 11” worked though!

I imagine I’ll get a lot of use out of the timer functionality as I currently have to unlock my phone, open the clock app, find the timer tab, choose the number and hit Start. I haven’t used a voice assistant before, so I know that this would be just as easy with Siri or similar. We have missed a timer while interacting with Alexa to get a podcast to play, so I’ve yet to determine how reliable this is.

I am struggling with calling it “it”. I find it natural to want to refer to it as “her” but I’m, currently, uncomfotable with the gender politics of having my kitchen assistant a female. I know I read an article about this a while ago, so I’ll have to look it out again.

I’m surprised by how sensitive the voice activation is. We were talking about Alexa last night while sitting in another room and heard it chirp into action. I’m not entirely comfortable with it listening in to every conversation at the moment.

I’m enjoying learning what does and doesn’t have the desired effect, like with the volume example above. I’m finding it quite playful to try commands or questions out and see what happens.

I looked at some of the Skills available this morning and found some of the language used to be clumsy and unnatural. I feel that this area needs careful thought when designing a Skill and am already reluctant to use those that feel clumsy.

As with all such gadgets what will be interesting to see is what my usage is like in a month or year’s time. Will it stop being a novelty at some point and become just another thing that gets constant use, or will it become a dust collector?