Last year Amazon released its speaker Amazon Echo, but this is not just another speaker. Amazon Echo is voice-controlled and since its release has really moved paces to get a name for itself in market. Amazon launched Echo back in November 2014, it is a voice activated speaker which is always listening for your commands. Echo is able to listen voice across room and act on your commands; no it will not make your food but it can play songs, add items to your Amazon shopping list and many more cool things.
Echo was priced at $199 but not all could buy it in starting, as it was invite only. For its Prime members Amazon offered it at a subsidized price of $99 only. The speaker is cylindrical shaped with 360 degree speaker. There is a volume control ring at the top speaker, on top of the speaker there are two buttons. One is Action button, second is for microphone off button. There is a 2.5” woofer and a 2” tweeter encapsulated in the speaker. The package for Echo includes a power adapter, a remote control and a magnetic strip for remote. After the initial success with Prime customers, Amazon opened Echo up for general public buying at a price of $179 at Amazon Store.
Now coming on to the interesting part of Echo, apart from being a speaker Amazon has made Echo as a voice controlled assistant which can do work according to your instructions. Amazon has given the name “Alexa” to its voice assistant. Just say Alexa and the speaker will come to life listening carefully about you requirement. You can also use “Amazon” as the wake word but it doesnot seem so friendly.
Alexa is always-on listening and waiting to fulfill your commands. At the time of launch its functionality was limited but as Amazon got more feedback on the product, they improved the software for Alexa. At the time of launch Alexa could play songs from Amazon Prime service, there was no support for streaming services through Echo. But as the market has grown for Echo, more and more services and functionality are coming. Voice control for Echo is now supported for Spotify, Pandora and iTunes.
All in all I pretty much like the idea of Alexa. I really like using Cortana and Siri on my smartphones and now Alexa coming to home. It has also joined the pool of virtual assistants.Well, Alexa reminds me of “Samantha” in the movie Her, where a lonely writer falls in love with his operating system.
Echo at the time of launch could play music, radio, news and it even could provide you information about weather also. Amazon released companion apps for Amazon Fire Phone and Android, now the app is also available for iOS devices. Alexa can play ad free music via Prime Music, Prime members can skip as many songs as they like. Ability to buy stuff from Amazon is also available but only for Prime Members. So, get ready to take a look into how technology is making advances in our daily lives.
Amazon is opening up the APIs for Echo and developers can bring their apps on the speaker. This has opened up a huge possibility like you can now control your WiFi connected Philips Hue, just ask Alexa to dim the lights and it will do it for you. Well, there is a demo video in a blogpost from SmartThings showing how Echo and SmartThings-compatible devices will work together.
The remote of Echo works as microphone. Along with the magnetic strip you can stick remote on your fridge or any place in your house and from there give commands to speaker kept in another room, pretty nice huh :).
Future is coming folks. What you think of such a voice-controlled Always-On device? Sound off below in comments.