Amazon Echo: The future of home convenience?

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As long as you don’t expect it to know everything, you’ll really enjoy this fella. It’s young and learning and Amazon has a list of topics it does know. Bottom line? It’s really fun and actually quite useful, just realize it’s new and will get better over time as they teach it more.

The most common things we use on a near daily basis: Timer, Alarm, Weather, music & measuring conversions

Some quick bullet points for you…

-It’s always on, always listening… but not in a creepy kinda way
-The speaker sounds great for its size, but definitely isn’t a big sound system
-Recognizes you from a reasonable distance, understands my Ukrainian wife pretty well
-Has a pretty large library of info to pull from, and growing
-Amazon is releasing regular updates/additions to its functionality(about once a month average)
-Alexa is a pleasing voice, but when can i load up Mr. T?
-Now can connect to home automation devices such as Nest (lighting control)

Some considerations
-Don’t ask it complicated things, or it will send bing results to your phone/computer
-Limited mostly to the amazon ecosystem for content(for now?)
-Comes with a remote… wish it came with extension units instead
-Stumbles here and there, but it’s young and learning.
-Can’t connect it to separate speakers
-Doesn’t make bacon pancakes

It recognizes my typical new england accent/voice pretty consistently. My wife though is Ukrainian, and her accent coupled with her asking complicated questions to alexa typically results in alexa giving up. For the video i had her demonstrate some simple stuff which alexa readily understands. You really need to keep it simple and clear, this is after all a computer, not a human.

It mostly uses amazon’s own ecosystem, but they’ve rencently added google calender, and i hope they add outlook support. Of course they will always prefer amazon services, but it looks like they’re not going to shut out other software entirely.

For general search/inquiries, if you ask it something obscure, there’s a good chance it will send you a search link instead of responding. There is a useful list in the app which shows you all the areas in which alexa is knowledgeable. Movies/TV/Sports are all topics that it knows pretty well. Ask it about a movie or TV show and it will give you a brief, ask it who won the world series in 1976 and it will tell you the team.

Useful functions
Asking for the news is great, and you can select what topics you want to hear. We use it in the kitchen a lot for measurements and setting a timer. You can even ask how much time is left in the current timer. One thing you cannot currently do is set multiple timers or alarms. Really hoping they expand that, because at this time it cannot replace your bedside alarm, you would have to tell it to set the alarm every night.

It does have a Remote
The remote is a nice added value, but the whole idea is to be wireless/hand-less, BUT if you can connect it to say… a whole house stereo… then you could talk to it and hear it from everywhere! Fingers crossed. Instead of a remote though, i feel like they should develop little extender boxes that plug directly into an outlet, with a small speaker and mic, and act like wifi extenders do with routers.

Final Thoughts
This is one of those things that you can see inevitably become standard in the future. At $199, it’s a bit much to swallow, i got in on the $99 prime invite, and at that price i think it’s well worth it. If $200 is nothing to you, then absolutely grab it. Otherwise, wait and see if it’s something you can truly make use of, not just a gag.

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