Instead, worried at hurt feelings and a vague possibility of retribution, I apologised.

Not my proudest moment, but I can still listen to it – my pathetic wheedling – because the robot recorded, saved and uploaded it to the cloud.

Unlike rivals such as Apple s Siri, Microsoft s Cortana and Google Now, it is a physical presence: a 20cm-tall black cylinder, about the size of two Coke cans, which contains Wi-Fi, two speakers, seven microphones and connects to the cloud.

When you say Alexa , the wake word , the cylinder top glows blue and speaks with a silky female voice.

An Irish friend jokingly branded Alexa a partitionist bitch for saying Ireland had 26 counties the Republic, yes, but include Northern Ireland and it s 32 .

Alexa, I said, I m sorry if I offended you.

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