“Who starred in Happy Days?”

“What is the traffic across the 520 bridge?”

“Where is my phone?”

“Turn off the kitchen lights.”

“Order more laundry detergent.”

“Please get me an Uber to go to the airport.”

Humans are inquisitive by nature. We also like to delegate and give out orders. Luckily, responding to questions and orders is what computers do best.

Amazon and its competitors—Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Apple—are investing heavily in personal digital assistants to carry out your every request and answer every question.

Amazon’s entrée into that world came in the form of the Echo, a voice-activated speaker system that perches on your kitchen ...

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