I have to admit that I’m a nerd, geek, tech junkie, whatever the terminology is for a person who tries out the latest gadgets. I thought that as I aged, and if my eyesight couldn’t be fixed by cataract surgery, it would be good to be able to do more things by voice and by ear. I also thought I might as well anticipate whatever form telehealth may take in the future.
I decided to embrace wireless speaker technology. I currently have a Google speaker in my living room, a Google nest hub in my kitchen, and two Google minis upstairs (note: I do pay a lot of attention to my privacy and security settings, but keep in mind there is always a trade-off to some extent).
I use these devices daily. I have routines set up for the morning. Google tells me about my calendar, the weather, and then streams local CBC radio. I can tell Google to add things to my shopping list wherever I am and whenever my vagrant memory returns, even if only for a moment.
Google speakers can set a multitude of timers when I’m cooking. The nest hub can even tell me what the timer is for, with different chimes for things like cookies or roasts. It can read me recipes step-by-step, although I don’t use that feature often. I do ask it to convert measurements if I’m altering a recipe on the fly, say from four servings to six, or if I want to use a slow cooker instead of the oven.
Google can turn on my TV and turn on one of my lights in the living room. It can yell at my husband that dinner’s ready to save me from wasting my breath and my voice. I read the local newspapers in hard copy (including What’s Up Yukon) and, instead of having to open my calendar and write down dates, I can tell Google to add events to my calendar, or remind me when to check for tickets.
It goes on and on. It can remember things for me, like the last episode of a Netflix series that we are watching on different nights. A great feature when my routine gets upset or changed is that Google reminds me when to take my medicines. As we live through the brain-fog of the pandemic, this feature has been highly useful. I will admit I’m pondering how to use my system so I can tell Google what I want in the basement instead of standing in the middle of the room going “what did I want down here again?”
So, you may ask, what can’t Google do? It simply cannot tell me the correct time.
It started when the Yukon didn’t change its clocks in the fall. For almost a month, my system was in chaos. My calendar didn’t work; my reminders didn’t work; the routines I set up didn’t work. Everything was a mess. Evidently the government had not informed Google (not sure about Amazon and Alexa systems) about its unilateral decision.
I spent hours on the phone and sending emails to government reps and Google techs. It took more than a month for my calendar to start working properly again. I could finally verbally add events again and rely on the system to give me notice for the few appointments or meetings or engagements that I have these days.
It took almost daily feedback to the device over several months before my nest hub would display the correct time. But…I still can’t use any timed routines as the system thinks it is still on Pacific time. Solutions suggested by the techies included ridiculous ideas such as changing my home address to somewhere in Alberta, which would make my news and weather completely useless.
I can live without this entire system, for sure. I still keep a paper bullet journal with my to-do’s and my appointments. As I get older, I find the more aide-memoirs I have, the more likely I can remember essential things so I intend to keep this practice as long as I can.
But if you ever want a giggle and don’t want Google to tell you one of its lame jokes, simply do the following: Ask Google what time it is in Whitehorse, Yukon, then ask Google what time it is. And laugh, or sigh, at the inability or unwillingness of a mighty corporation (a tech tyrant?) to fix the simplest things for a little jurisdiction like ours.
I’m dreading the spring time change on March 14. Hopefully someone in government will think about this issue and get Google to act in advance. After all, time and tech wait for no one.