Three reasons to use Chatterbox instead of Alexa

Chatterbox is a build-it-yourself, program-it-yourself smart speaker for kids. But let me tell you a secret: It's not just for kids.

(Full disclosure: My son, Kevin, is the innovator behind Chatterbox.)

Gadget fans, makers and nerds of all kinds are discovering Chatterbox and signing up on the Chatterbox Kickstarter to get an early unit not because they've got kids and not because they're educators, but because they want to build and program their own Chatterbox.

There are many reasons why a grownup might want Chatterbox, but three major ones:

1. Privacy

We've learned recently that Alexa listens all the time; the audio from your home is constantly streamed into the cloud and presumably recorded. Then thousands of Amazon employees actually listen to various recordings. Amazon's privacy policy does not limit what the company can do with recordings from your home. And Amazon is not forthcoming about what it does with those recordings. Also: Amazon knows your name, address and reading preferences and tracks you all over the internet.

Chatterbox doesn't ever listen until you press the big yellow button. And Chatterbox never gathers personal information. With Chatterbox, Privacy is total.

2. Customization

Smart speaker assistants like Alexa have features out of the box, plus thousands of skills you can add. But they still frustrate users with what they cannot do. The Verge news editor Chaim Gartenberg detailed his own frustration this week with the fact none of the major assistants -- Alexa, Assistant and Siri -- can turn off a light with a timer. They can set a timer. They can turn off lights. But you can't tell them: "turn off the lights in 30 minutes."

Chatterbox is a program-it-yourself smart speaker. So, of course, it's easy to teach Chatterbox to turn off the lights with a timer. Here's exactly how you do that with Chatterbox.

You can teach Chatterbox to do just about anything.

3. Fun

Smart speakers are convenient. But they're also consumer tools. Their purpose is to make it easy for you to buy things, and to feed more personal data into the "surveillance capitalism" machine.

That's boring.

Chatterbox is for creativity. It's a tool for making and exploring and challenging oneself to think up creative new ways to interact with the internet and with smart home gadgets.

And that's fun.

Yes, Chatterbox is for kids. Like you and me.