Echo Fun with Nyle

David Griffith discovers a surprising interaction between his Echo and his Guide Dog.

My guide Dog Nyle is pretty indifferent to most forms of technology. He shows little interest in our Television. he normally hunkers down on his vet bed or if I am on the floor comes in for a cuddle. This may have something to do with the limitations of our ancient 21inch non flat screen, non-wide screen TV. I have no motivation in paying money for screen technology I cannot see. My wife Sue does not seem too bothered and the old box suffices for the rare TV she watches. In any case the only times Nyle has apparently shown any interest in watching is if Fireworks are showing or his One Man and his Dog DVD is playing.

This indifference to technology abruptly changed today. Some months ago I bought an Amazon Echo Dot. This is a new audio gadget which are wonderful for blind people. As they are voice activated they require no vision. I use my Echo Dot for telling the time, setting timers whilst cooking, getting the news and weather, playing radio stations and podcasts. What is relevant for this story though is the ability of the Echo to provide timed reminders.

When I got up this morning I asked my Echo to remind me to order Dog Food at 9.15. When 9.15 rolled around the Echo played the Reminder tone and the Alexa voice called out “This is a reminder – Order dog Food”. A few seconds later the tone played again and the reminder was repeated. To my surprise I heard Nyle get up, GIVE a big shake and then padded excitedly up to me. He seemed to approve of Alexa’s reminder.

Intrigued I decided to test this. I asked the Echo Dot to set a reminder for 2pm. When asked what I wanted to be reminded of I simply said “There’s a good boy Nyle”.

I waited, interested to see if there was any repeat of the interaction.. Sure enough when 2PM CAME AROUND THE Echo play its reminder tone. When the Echo said “There’s a good boy Nyle”, he got up, stretched and again came to me for a cuddle. HE DEFINITELY SEEMED TO BE REACTING TO THE Echo.

This made me wonder about further uses of this technology. Perhaps echo reminders could be used to reassure Nyle on the rare occasions that he is left at home? Maybe the message could simply repeat “there’s a good boy Nyle”, or even “Dave will be home soon”.

This may seem a little farfetched but I am convinced that our dogs hear and understand much more than we give them credit for. For example, at our Archaeology class tonight a speaker described how he had excavated dog kennels in the Old Street area of London, including a description of the dog bones he had discovered. Nyle who normally just lays under my table got up at this point and became quite excited, walking around with his blanket in his mouth, much to the amusement of the rest of the class. I think there was little doubt that he had at least recognised the words kennels, dogs and bones. The class teacher used the opportunity to take Nyle to the front and demonstrate the location of some of the bones found.

Before doing anything I will test Nyle’s reaction to the Echo by asking Sue to watch him covertly. I don’t want him to be confused and/or disturbed by announcements in my absence. I will err on the side of caution.

It is all just a bit of fun really but it did make me wonder if any other Guide Dogs, or Dogs in general, are interacting with this technology. Is this a common reaction or is Nyle unusual in listening to the Echo? Perhaps I will set off a chain of experiments around the country.

David Griffith

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