For Super Bowl, Amazon shows how creepy Alexa could get

It's all supposed to be very funny. It stars Scarlett Johansson and her husband. But is this really such a chucklefest?
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

Alexa said what?

Screenshot by ZDNet

I've been worried about Alexa lately.

Amazon's smart-speaking assistant is, apparently, not as useful as those in tech might think.

Why, Bloomberg recently got hold of an internal Amazon memo that suggested the company was very worried. Humans are only using Alexa for the very basics. If they're using their Alexa devices at all.

In some years, between 15% and 25% of Alexa devices were idle during the second week in their new homes.

Clearly, this is a cause for concern. And there is no better arena for concerned causes than the Super Bowl.

So Amazon has hired Scarlett Johansson and her Saturday Night Live presenter husband Colin Jost to perform in a Super Bowl ad and bring a little starry sparkle.

It's a spirited defense of Alexa's worth. It's also a very defensive defense.

Here we have our happy couple enjoying Alexa's true talent -- mind-reading.

She knows that if it's Super Bowl time, the game must be streamed on Prime Video, the blinds must be drawn and the rosé must be chilled in preparation. 

These are posh New York people, you understand. And surely you know that stars don't drink beer.

Alexa's talents don't, though, stop there. When Jost realizes his wife has imperfect morning breath, Alexa announces she's ordering mint mouthwash. Extra strength.

Johansson is rehearsing for a show. Jost isn't impressed. When he asks for the date of opening night, Alexa chimes in with a promise to alert him to fake his own death on that very day.

I think you know how and where this is going by now.

When Jost asks Johansson whether kissing handsome people on set is wonderful or the worst, she instantly plumps for the latter. Alexa instantly plays "Tell Me Lies, Tell Me Sweet Little Lies" by Fleetwood Mac.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if Alexa could read minds this way? After all, some have already made videos to show just how wonderful it would be if she not only read minds, but took a more active role in directing family life.

But this is the Super Bowl. It's all one big joke.

"It's probably better if Alexa can't read your mind," intones Jost at the end.

And the reassurance washes over you like a group of defensive linemen hungry for the ball.

Perish the very idea that Alexa would pry, snoop, and intrude on your precious moments. Or, indeed, on any of your moments.

I still sense your concerns.

Does Amazon fear that many people don't use Alexa very much precisely because they worry she's a snooper?

Does the company want to make one big joke about mind-reading because, in an ideal world, this is its true dream?

Have we reached the point where we're suddenly realizing the limitations of these devices and their true role in our lives?

If you want to know the weather, you can still look out of the window.

And, after two years of Zoom eight hours a day, looking out the window seems a more pleasant activity than abdicating even more of your life to technology.

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