Sunday, March 8, 2015

An Echo Heard Round the World

My birthday gift this year from my wife was an Amazon Echo. I’m sure you might have heard about these things, but it is about the size of a can of tennis balls, and sounds as impressive as most Bose audio systems I have encountered. Of course it is a lot more than that. It all boils down to a really fascinating audio player what has a certain level of programming to it so that it will remind you of Siri or any other of the voice recognition programs that you have on your phone.

First and foremost let me get this out of the way, Alexa, the name of your audio assistant for lack of a better term, has a much nicer voice than any of the others I have heard. This includes the new Microsoft phone assistant that they seem so proud of. She comes fully programmed with a lot of the quirks that people have enjoyed figuring out on Siri, like for example it will tell you knock knock jokes, and give Bones McCoy style answers if you tell it to “Live Long and Prosper” but it’s ability to give you information from the internet and ability to play music are a step up.

My wife has already enjoyed making the thing do the menial things that she always forgets to do. She adds things to the “grocery list” for example when they come to her simply by saying “Alexa add almond milk to the grocery list” and Alexa responds, “Adding almond milk to your grocery list,” all while playing whatever songs you ask her to. She also gets stations from IHeartRadio, when you get sick of the Amazon Prime music collection. I’m already joking with the wife that it is her new best friend and she agrees.

Now probably the most amazing thing about Amazon Echo is the fact that I paid a whopping $99 for it because I got on a waiting list. I can tell you this though, when it gets released to the general public for the retail price of $199, it is worth every penny. The conspiracy theorists are out there already touting how Alexa is just gathering data so Amazon can push advertise to you, and I am here to say, “Well duh?” Personally I have had ads pushed at me from every direction. Got a grocery store loyalty card? Guess what they do with that? Do you use Google to search? I think you know I could throw this out for dozens of things and hours of your time.

I’m sure people will point to all of the digital assistants on their phone, and even point out that audio is out, and they want something that does video. Amazon Echo makes sure that Alexa is on at all times and no matter where you are in relation to her, if she can here you say “Alexa” then the little flashing ring starts spinning to let you know she is ready for a question or a request. There is even support for third party apps, and I am sure there will be plenty of people willing to create more cool things for Alexa to do next. I may want one of these for work someday. It would be nice to have someone there that is happy to do what I ask of them.

You can always head over to the Amazon Echo page and request an invitation to get in line like we did, and I’m sure you’ll be happy you did when it shows up, because it took us about 20 minutes to love it.