As an Amazon Echo owner (I bought the first generation Echo when it came out a few years ago because I’m a sucker for new technology), I can confidently say that I absolutely love the thing.
My Echo is my alarm clock, Bluetooth speaker, reminder-er (?), meteorologist, list-maker and more, and it all sits comfortably on the corner of my desk. It’s kind of like my little robotic secretary.
However, most of my friends don’t share my same love for the Echo as they can’t get over the idea that it’s “always listening.” And to a certain extent, that’s true — the Amazon Echo is always technically listening — but that’s never necessarily bothered me because, well, I’m not saying anything that can’t be heard.
BUTTTTTTT being a college kid, on the other hand, is a completely different story.
College kids talk about selling Adderall and the type of drugs they tried at last weekend’s party. College kids talk about cheating on their exams and sharing homework answers in their group chat, so the last thing a student needs is a university-issued robot constantly listening into their conversations.
So, with all that said, if I’m an incoming Northeastern Student, I’m absolutely refusing the Echo Dot the school is offering me, especially considering that it will be “customized to handle basic questions about student life at the Boston-based school.”
The Echo Dots will come equipped with an Alexa skill, designed by tech startup n-Powered, that will allow them to ask questions, such as when their classes are scheduled, how much cash remains on their food cards, and how much they owe for tuition, according to USA Today. N-Powered plans to offer similar skills to other universities. The USA Today story didn’t specify whether the students would have to pay for the devices.
Northeastern, which piloted the new Alexa skill with about 60 students during the previous academic year, is hoping the Echo Dots will help reduce the flow of questions it routinely fields from students, which could mean less time for students waiting on hold for answers.
Last August, Arizona State University received 1,600 Echo Dots as a donation from Amazon to the school’s first-year engineering students. Those Dots also came with a customized Alexa skill built by Amazon. At the time, the company said it made the donation to help research the ways students use the voice-powered device.
Don’t get me wrong, Amazon Echos are fantastic, but not when they’re given to you by the school you attend, because after all … it’s always listening.