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Insteon exposes Alexa's weaknesses

The Amazon Echo is one of the best tech products I've bought lately. It's the perfect kitchen companion and it gets used several times a day as a timer, weatherman, news reader, radio, and music player. The voice recognition has been smooth, fast, and impressive. The Echo's array of microphones really do a nice job of hearing what's said, even from far across the room.

As a home automator, I was eager to try out the recently introduced support of the INSTEON Hub. (Sadly, the old version, not the HomeKit version.) And that's when Alexa's limitations became apparent. Up until I turned on Insteon support, it was a rare occasion when the Echo didn't understand what I'm saying. But when it comes to Insteon, I'm actually surprised when it does work, which is rather sad.

I think the issue is that opening up to Insteon means that the device has to recognize a much larger list of words, but it cannot. When I say "Turn on the white globe lamp," its response is sometimes "OK," but more often, it's "I don't understand while job camp" or some other misinterpretation. Other examples that the Echo doesn't understand include: "Turn off the left bedside light" and "Is the garage light on?".

The add-on game Jeopardy, which Amazon recently introduced, exposes the same problem. Here you're expected to answer Alexa's question. But again, 80% of the time she doesn't understand what you said. It makes the game little more than a novelty, and a frustrating one at that.

I hope that Amazon recognizes this problem and slows down on the "gee whiz" features that don't actually work very well. Otherwise they run the risk of making the Echo a frustrating toy.


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