We were one of the lucky early recipients of the Amazon Echo, a voice-activated, Wi-Fi connected technology supported by a magical cylinder. Even with the description it came with, I still didn’t know what to expect from Alexa, the name given to the cloud based system the Echo connects to. Now, I don’t want to go back to a world without her! It’s hard to describe all that you can do with Alexa, so I’ll walk you through a typical day.
Morning – “Alexa, play Pandora Britney Spears” to start my day with dance music. I’m an avid FitBit user, so every step counts! After breakfast, I add to the grocery list, “Alexa, add greek yogurt to shopping list.” I have to use the wake up word “Alexa” to add each item (you can’t state a running list), but between cleaning up breakfast dishes, holding a baby, and cleaning up my preschooler, I don’t have any hands left to jot down the items I know we need as we consume them. To build the rest of the day, I ask, “Alexa, what’s the weather?” I can also ask specifically if it’s going to rain. There is no need to tell Alexa where you are. She’s already tapped into your Wi-Fi network and has your exact location.
Afternoon – It’s time to give the girls’ some music, so I switch stations with, “Alexa, play Pandora Disney” to switch to an upbeat channel with kid-friendly music. After a while, it’s time for lunch and adding more to the shopping list. I want to make sure I am up to date on all of my to-dos for the next few days so I ask, “Alexa, what’s on my calendar.” Alexa is synced to my google calendar and will tell me what is happening that day through up to seven days out. It’s a good reminder for me since I forget anything I haven’t written down.
Evening – Preparing dinner is easier because Alexa can set timers. Sure, I have a timer on the oven, but with multiple things cooking, it’s just that much easier to track them. Alexa can also set an alarm with an easy request, “Alexa, set alarm for 4 PM” so I can stop working and get to the kitchen to prepare dinner.
Amazon has equipped the Echo with an app to transfer information to my account and to sync my google calendar. I can sign into Pandora, view my shopping list, and see a running list of the recent commands. Alexa learns my voice over time, so scrolling through the list of commands allows me to identify the ones that were misunderstood and flag them.
The Echo is not yet a perfect system, but Amazon is improving it constantly. As part of the initial group of people with the system, we were able to send in feedback as often as we wanted. Amazon responded to each email with a real response (versus a canned response) and catalogued the improvement requests with the development team.
Amazon Echo is currently on sale for $179.99 on Amazon.com.
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