April 01, 2019

Alexa - Why Aren't You Doing What I Ask?

If you missed any of the previous articles about Alexa and Google Home speakers, you will find links to them at the end of this article.

Lately I've noticed that Alexa doesn't seem to understand what I ask it. It either does something totally different, or it doesn't respond and I have to ask again.

As noted in a prior article, I stereo-paired two Echo Dot speakers. For the purposes of this article, I will use the default "wake word" of "Alexa." I actually had to change that on my devices -- because frequently, when someone would say Alexa on the TV, it would wake my devices and Alexa would try to respond.

Here are a few situations I have encountered recently:

Scenario 1:
Me: Alexa. Sixties on Six on Sirius XM.
Alexa: Playing Symphony Hall on Sirius XM.
In addition to not playing the station I requested, the music is only coming out of one speaker.
Me: Alexa. Stop.
Alexa thinks about this for a bit, sort-of stops, then continues playing.
Me: Alexa. Stop.
Alexa finally stops.

There are several issues in the above scenario. First, Alexa did not follow my instructions and played the wrong station. Second, the music only came out of one speaker. Third, Alexa did not stop as directed.

Scenario 2:
Me: Alexa. Play Sixties on Six on Sirius XM.
Alexa: Sixties on Six on Sirius XM.
The correct station plays, and in stereo.
Me: Alexa. Stop.
This time, Alexa stops.

I have no explanation for the first and third item in Scenario 1, but if you look closely at my first command, there is a slight difference between Scenario 1 and Scenario 2. In Scenario 2, I included the word "Play", which seemed to make all the difference.

Here is another issue I've encountered:

Scenario 3:
Me: Alexa. 1010 WINS Radio. (I am expecting to hear the news station 1010 WINS via Radio.com).
Alexa: Playing Family Values Radio from iHeartRadio. (Alexa plays what is apparently a Christian broadcast station.)
Me. Alexa Stop. (Alexa does not stop). I repeat "Alexa stop" multiple times, without success. Finally, I open the app on my phone and press the pause button. Eventually Alexa stops. One time, when I repeated this exercise as described in the note below, even that didn't work. My only recourse was to pull the plug on the speaker.

    Note: I have been able to repeat this bizarre scenario multiple times. I also tried adding the word "Play" as in Scenario 2, and I even tried adding "on Radio.com". None of these changes in command made a difference. The results were the same.
In order for this to work, I stumbled upon the following solution:

Scenario 4:
Me: Alexa. Open Radio.com
Alexa: What would you like to listen to?
Me: 1010 WINS
Alexa: Playing 1010 WINS. (1010 WINS radio starts playing.)

Me: Alexa. Stop.
Alexa stops.

Scenario 4 got me what I wanted, but I didn't used to have to do that.

There have also been multiple occasions when I would ask Alexa a question, or ask Alexa to do something, and it would dutifully beep or flash lights showing it heard me, but then not respond. It has been very frustrating.

By comparison, once in a while one of my Google Home devices might not respond, but this issue has been far more prevalent with the Alexa devices in my experience.

In the event you missed previous articles about Google Home and Amazon Echo, you can find them here:





Richard L. Kuper

The Kuper Report