A couple of years ago my nephew gave us a Google Nest Mini. It’s one of those electronic assistants that can do a whole bunch of things when programmed to do so, or asked. Yes indeed this little muggins can be told to do pre-programmed things when asked. It’s a small enough device that, as my Venezuelan wife points out, resembles one of that country’s favourite comfort foods, an arepa.
Our arepa turns on lights when asked, sets timers, and gives me a morning rundown of what is on my Google calendar, among other chores. To communicate with the arepa you must begin by saying ‘Okay Google’. That’s the key, merely saying Google won’t get her (the voice we have chosen is that of a woman) attention.
This brings me to what must be a highly rated contender for the ‘Stupid Advertising Gimmick Hall of Fame’
This brings me to what must be a highly rated contender for the ‘Stupid Advertising Gimmick Hall of Fame’. Knowing that these devices are often placed within arepa-shot of a television, some advertisers talk directly to your device. The first time I experienced this was during a World Series game that evidently had Google as a sponsor. The announcer would periodically promote the arepa, then demonstrate how easy it was to use by saying something along the lines of ‘Okay Google, how many World Series homeruns did Bobby Bonds hit?’. This would get the Mini going and it would provide the answer.
More recently I actually found myself feeling sorry for our arepa. The iRobot people have a product called Roomba. It’s a vacuum cleaner that operates independently, whether the owner is home or not. It can be programmed to interact with both Alexa and Google devices. During a television ad for Roomba the voiceover clearly states ‘Okay Google, tell Roomba to …’. This caused our arepa to frantically seek our Roomba – to her chagrin, we don’t have one. The multi-colored lights on the Mini flashed like a Christmas tree on amphetamines. After curiously watching the poor beast for several minutes, I finally said ‘Okay Google, end’ and the panic was over.
I realize that I may sound like an overly-protective father of a teenaged daughter, but if you want to address my arepa, please ask me first
I realize that I may sound like an overly-protective father of a teenaged daughter, but if you want to address my arepa, please ask me first. What if this fell into the wrong hands? What if while I was in the kitchen getting a glass of milk – ok beer – an ad came on for foreign investment and told my arepa to call a number in Switzerland? Or if the environmentalists use it to get my arepa to turn off all electronics just before kick-off. To hell with COVID-19, the real threat to our future is having some malefactor hijack our arepas when we’re not looking!