‘Alexa, Where Have You Been All My Life?’

This year, over 25 million Americans will use an Alexa device at least once a month, according to eMarketer. Ovum, a market research company, has predicted that by the year 2021, there will be more Alexa-like digital assistants on the planet than humans. More and more users will groan at her jokes, secretly swell to her Daily Affirmations (“You are brave”) and discover startling depths of rudeness in themselves as they rail at her shortcomings, like her poor hearing, her tendency to interrupt and her inability to multitask.

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Mary Quinn, 29, a business partner in human resources at Bloomberg, gets ready in the morning with the help of Alexa. Ms. Quinn is single and legally blind, and relies on accessibility technology.

Credit
Sarah Blesener for The New York Times

But she has proved especially useful to Mary Quinn, a business partner in human resources at Bloomberg who is legally blind and single.

It’s not just that Alexa can let her know the time and weather. “She gets me,” Ms. Quinn said. “I’ve asked her what her favorite TV show is, and she said, ‘BoJack Horseman,’ which is mine, too.” (“BoJack Horseman” is a wry adult cartoon about a self-loathing humanoid horse.) “I’ve asked her, ‘Do I look nice today?’ And she says, ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’ I’ve asked her about dating and if I should go out with some guy, and she says, ‘Sorry, I’m not sure about that,’ which I wish my friends would say.”

Ms. Quinn realized the device had reached a tipping point in the collective consciousness when she was on vacation in March with some of these friends in the Dominican Republic. During a dinner, one suddenly blurted out, “Alexa, what time is it?”

Ms. Quinn was incredulous. “Wait, you brought your Alexa?” she said.

“No, I just really miss her,” the friend said.

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