Hands on…no, hands off…um, let’s see: “Voice on” with the Alexa Microwave

Hands on…no, hands off…um, let’s see: “Voice on” with the Alexa Microwave

We just got the new

AmazonBasics Microwave 700W Works with Alexa (at AmazonSmile*) | $59.99 at time of writing | 4.2 stars out of 5 | 193 customer reviews

and I’ve had time to check it out.

For years, I’ve said that one of the most embarrassing things is when I go somewhere to teach people technology, and then they see me in their breakroom, just staring blankly at the microwave. 😉

I think many of us have been there: you can’t figure out how to work the microwave, so you just hit something like a four-minute popcorn button, and then stop it manually when it gets to the minute thirty you really wanted.

Well, Amazon really has fixed all that!

You get this microwave…it’s a decent microwave: 700 watts, .7 cubic feet (about 20 liters), with a turntable.

You connect the microwave (wirelessly) to an Echo device using the Alexa app (probably on your phone…I’m using a Galaxy S8).

From then on, you can just tell Alexa how much time you want, and it happens!

Is this life changing? No. Is it nice? You bet your baked potato!

One of the things it solves is having to clean the buttons on the microwave…that’s one of the reasons why we wanted to replace our old microwave, the buttons were wearing out (the numbers become illegible).

Oh, and that’s definitely worth noting! It does have buttons. My Significant Other is not a big fan of tech, although my SO has been using Alexa more lately**. Having buttons as an option is definitely a good thing.

In fact, this is my one suggestion for Amazon so far: I’d like to have a way to pop the door open (and ideally, also close it, but I know the latter would be harder for the device and easier for me) by voice. Then, I wouldn’t have to touch the front surface at all if I didn’t want to do that.

There is one sort of odd button you might want to use, though…and I misunderstood it at first.

I started out testing the microwave by saying to our

Echo Show (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

“Echo, microwave for a minute and twenty-five seconds.”

I should point out that we use “Echo” as the “wake word” for that device, because we use “Alexa” for our

Fire TV Cube (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and they are right near each other.

The microwave just started right up with that time, cheerfully telling me that it was using Level 10. I could have requested a different level if I wanted. There are also a lot of presets, where you can tell it to cook a certain type of food…those are listed here:

Alexa Microwave Cook Presets (PDF)

I’m sure they’ll be adding more…and I guess that gives me my second suggestion for Amazon. 😉 We should be able to tell it an amount to cook something and have it remember it. “Echo, remember that I cook MorningStar Farms Breakfast Patties for one minute and 25 seconds”, and then later, I could say, “Echo, cook breakfast patties”, and it would do it.

Anyway, that button…there is an “Ask Alexa” button near the keypad. I thought (without having thought about it much) that it would mean that I could talk to the microwave instead of the Echo Show, but the microwave doesn’t have microphones as far as I know.

What it does is replace saying the wake word…instead of saying, “Echo microwave for 90 seconds”, you can just push the button and say, “90 seconds”.

That might seem silly, but here’s the thing: my Echo Show could do a lot of things for ninety seconds, like setting a timer, so I have to specify. When I push the Ask Alexa button on the microwave, it knows I’m talking about the microwave. I don’t have to tell it to cook…it already knows that’s what I want.

I also think that’s why the microwave doesn’t do the regular Alexa things, like telling me the weather or what time*** it is…it has to be paired with an Echo device, so you already have that functionality. It simplifies things to have a microwave that just knows it’s a microwave. This will be a bit obscure, but it’s a little like the toaster on Red Dwarf…too much intelligence might not be the best thing. I actually wrote a paper in high school called “Optimum IQ”, which addressed this same issue.

I think we’ll see more of this: dedicated Alexa-controlled devices, which don’t do most of the Alexa functions.

I should point out that it would only pair with something that had the word “Echo” in it…Echo Show, Echo (tower), Echo Dot…it wouldn’t pair with our Fire TV Cube, even though the Cube can do weather, time, and so on.

As to the set up…what I had to do was easy, but it didn’t work at first. It didn’t show up in my Alexa app until I restarted my phone. That might confuse some people, but hopefully, it was just a fluke.

Overall? Well worth the sixty dollars! I think the microwave would have been worth that without Alexa, but Alexa really makes it fun, and yes, easier. If you are still looking for a gift for somebody who already has Alexa as part of their household, this is a good choice. I probably wouldn’t get this even paired with a Dot (they sell them that way, as a bundle) as someone’s first Alexa device…I think they would focus on it too much as a microwave, and not realize everything else Alexa can do.

There is something else I should mention, although we won’t use it…it can automatically reorder microwave popcorn for you, if you want. That might be more useful in the future for us if we could tell it what inventory we wanted it to manage. It would count how many times we cooked a particular item, and reorder it before we ran out.

That’s definitely part of the path for Alexa: anticipating what we need on repetitive tasks. That’s for another time, though. 🙂

Update: I used the buttons this morning (my Significant Other was still asleep, so that’s easier) and was very impressed with the button programming! Maybe that’s just because our other microwave was older, and maybe they all do this now, but I loved that I didn’t have to push a button first to tell it I was going to cook. I was putting in twenty seconds (heating a low carb tortilla). I pushed the 2 (without pushing another button first) and it showed me two minutes. When I pushed the 0, it went right to 20 seconds. Three button pushes (not counting opening the door) to microwave for 20 seconds (2, 0, Start)…nice!

Bonus deal: today only (in the USA), you can get an omnibus of

Three James Herriot Classics: All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, and All Things Wise and Wonderful (at AmazonSmile*)

for $1.99. That’s a great deal!

Do you have questions or comments? Feel free to share them with me and my readers by commenting on this post.

**While my SO had been using Alexa for timers, the new addition is using it for music. That’s through our Cube. Things like, “Alexa, play rainy day jazz”

***The microwave does tell you what time it is: it has a clock. 😉 That’s actually a nice thing…it sets itself, and will adjust for Daylight Savings Time (taking the time from the Alexa device, which takes it from the cloud.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog

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2 Responses to “Hands on…no, hands off…um, let’s see: “Voice on” with the Alexa Microwave”

  1. Zebras Says:

    I would have bought the Alexa enabled microwave, too, if we didn’t already have a built in one over the stove. It’s one that is both a convection and microwave, and I can barely figure out how to reheat and I’m not too bad with technology!

    I remember my friend telling me how his blind uncle had someone put a piece of tape as a marker for one of those ones that had a dial for a timer, so he would know what he was doing with his. So, I would think that voice activation of the microwave for a blind person would be invaluable!

  2. The Year in E-Books 2018 | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] Hands on…no, hands off…um, let’s see: “Voice on” with the Alexa Microwave […]

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