Alexa, do I drink too much?
Depending on who you ask, the Amazon Echo (powered by its virtual personal assistant Alexa) is either a time-saving miracle device or akin to inviting a nosy stranger into your home. It’s great that you can get Alexa to brew you some coffee, but the fact that Alexa can record evidence about us has the potential to raise privacy concerns.
The latest Echo-connected app designed by Cancer Research UK isn’t likely to sway your opinion about Internet of Things-connected assistants, but it does offer a handy way to potentially record and cut back on your alcohol consumption. Dubbed “My Alcohol Tracker,” the free Alexa app lets you set a goal for the number of alcohol “units” (10 milliliters of pure alcohol) in a given week and have the device track your progress.
The tracker was inspired by Cancer Research UK’s understanding of the correlation between alcohol consumption and the incidences of certain cancers. As they see it, it’s a simple way to leverage a device we already use to improve long-term health outcomes. “As a charity, we recognize that technology will play a continually important part in helping us to beat cancer sooner,” says the organization’s digital director Michael Docherty. “Alcohol Tracker uses voice recognition technology to help people get a better idea of what they are drinking, as well as providing helpful hints and tips on cutting down.”
Of course, a system like this is only as reliable as the end user. Successful use requires honesty about one’s alcohol consumption and say things like “Alexa, add two alcohol units to my tracker” when you crack open a pint (yes, a unit is probably less than you think). Because Amazon’s shopping app allows you to interact with Alexa on the go, you can also let her know how much you’re drinking by talking into your smartphone, which will probably look a little strange to everyone else at the bar.
At the end of the week, Alexa will give you a rundown of how you stacked up against your personal drinking goal (Cancer Research UK suggests 14 weekly units or less of alcohol), either giving you a virtual pat on the back for your temperance or providing advice and encouragement meant to help you cut down on your drinking. There’s no word on whether or not Alexa will call you a degenerate alcoholic or start reciting Bukowski poems in a cold, robotic monologue if you overshoot your weekly target, but why find out the hard way?