Amazon Echo

This may come as a surprise to readers of this blog, but I do like to stay on top of technology. Recently, Amazon unveiled the Echo. Of course, I had to try one out. What is it? Good question. Think intelligent radio (on steroids). You interact with the device almost entirely via voice. Yes, there is an app for your smart phone or tablet. However, the majority of time you talk to the computer. It arrived on January 23, 2015 and it took all of 15 minutes to set it up and have it working. This included 25 sentences of voice training. Let’s take a look at the device as well as the app.First, the device arrives in a small box and is really just a cylinder. You plug it in and start configuring it. I took a photo of it as it arrived (so you can also see the packaging). Yes, you can click on the image to enlarge it.

Amazon Echo

 

 

There is also a remote control (with a microphone when the room is noisy). The remote control is shown below.

Remote for Echo

For initial setup, you must configure the device. It comes with its own network. Once you configure, this network disappears and the device is connected to your wireless network. The setup was rather easy. You also have the choice of one of two words to send voice commands to the device. In theory, you should be able to customize this more in the future.

Within the app itself, I though a few screen captures would be appropriate. First, the settings. There is a fair amount of customization (and you can connect to various services like IHeartRadio). You can play any of the music available to Amazon Prime subscribers (well over a million songs). You simply tell the device to play. You can adjust the volume with your voice.

Echo settings

The app also records the history of your interactions with the device. Yes, I now have a slew of new jokes available. I included one in the screen capture below. I am certain every reader will want to click on the image below to see the joke Echo provided.

History of interactions

The app interface has a number of options. I provide the screen capture below. In some respects it is similar to what I have experienced with the Pebble watch. You have a number of “cards” that you can use on the device.

Echo app interface

As I mentioned, you interact with the device almost exclusively by voice. You can set up a flash briefing (you decide the topics and news sources). Echo will then give you a synopsis of the items you are interested in (these are fairly up to date). Of all the features, I find that I use this most frequently. It is great to get a synopsis of what is happening on my schedule. You can also search the web and obtain a fair amount of information quickly. So far, I have found it to be intuitive and easy to use. I think it is going to be a very indispensable addition to my gadgets (or end up in the dust bin as something newer takes its place). Time will tell whether this technology catches on. I do like the ease of voice interactions.

Some things I hope to see in future versions include the ability to choose form more than a couple of names to interact with the device. I am also curious about the security. Yes, this is attached to my wireless network (and that is reasonably secure). However, there are options to purchase music by voice command (no I chose not to activate those options). If some hacker did get into the network, there could be a lot of issues with such a device (in my opinion). I think this is a good example of the coming “Internet of Things.” To me, security is one of the big issues which needs more attention. As someone recently told me – “I know I am paranoid. I fear I am not paranoid enough.”

Here is the Amazon Echo in action (yes, it is now a source for my jokes).

Amazon Echo in action from Mark DuBois on Vimeo.

I am curious if readers would like to learn more about the capabilities of this device. As always, I am interested in your comments.

2 thoughts on “Amazon Echo”

  1. Is it possible to sync to an email account and have it read emails or what about Twitter feeds?

  2. Great question Doug. Unfortunately, not in this version. In fact, the task list that one can create seems specific to the device. I can’t synch it with any other calendar or Exchange. It is nice to be able to set tasks and shopping lists and check them later on your phone. I would hope this is a feature planned for a future version.
    Best always,
    Mark

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