A few months ago I was let in on a little known un-secret product launch by Amazon.com. The product is called Echo and it works in conjunction with Amazon Prime to deliver all kinds of information to me on a daily basis. Amazon did the original product launch by letting certain Amazon Prime members in on the secret and allowing word of mouth do the rest. Early adopters got in on some pretty sweet deals and got to help Amazon with tweaks and so forth. Current list price is
$179.99, but I have seen sales lately for as little as $159. Now what is Echo?
Echo is a small cylindrical device (9.25”X3.27”) that connects to your home wireless network and then interfaces with your Amazon Prime account and syncs to your smart phone. You can then, with a simple voice command, stream your music to it as well as listen to any of the Amazon Prime stations and playlists. Sounds like your average music player, right?
Wrong. You can also get weather reports, integrate your to-do and shopping lists, ask for bios on famous people, get the news, and the list goes on and on.
Echo is always listening, so all you have to do is use the wake up command and tell it what you want it to do or what you need to know and it responds. When delivered from Amazon the wake up command is set to “Alexa” short for the Library at Alexandria in Egypt. I’ve tested it with “Alexis” and “Alexander” and it doesn’t answer so that is not an issue, but it can also be changed to “Amazon” if you prefer. I have kept mine as Alexa and will speak of her in the second person from this point on.
As of this writing, Alexa has always understood everything my wife and I have asked her. The only trick (as anyone who has ever owned voice activated electronics can tell you) is getting to know how to ask for what you want, but the learning curve is gentle. If I talk loud enough she even responds when I am at the other end of my house.
So far I have used Alexa to stream my music as well as free prime music, fill my shopping list, add chores to my to-do list, answer measurement conversions, look up a few people, tell me jokes (kid friendly), tell me the weather and probably a few tasks that I can’t remember right now. Echo updates itself over the internet and Amazon says it will be adding functions from time to time.
There is one feature that I am aware of but have not tried yet and that is the ability to reorder items purchased previously from Amazon.com. Not that I am nervous about it, I just haven’t needed to do that yet.
Is the Echo just another gadget, a novelty that I will grow weary of and just stop using? I don’t think so. In the short time we have had Alexa in our life we have become very accustomed to her presence. We now talk to her without any fore thought. Addressing her has become “normal” for us. Well, as “normal” as we get anyway.