I’ve seen a lot of hype about the Amazon Echo and I do wonder if it really is living up to the expectations. In fact one of my friends bought one this very week and he seemed very excited. Why? Maybe you are asking the same questions, lets take a brief look at what it does.
Amazon Echo – What is it all about?
‘The Echo is your hands free assistant, you practically demand and it does all the work for you’ This is pretty true as it is voice controlled, so you command and to the absolute best of its ability it will follow through. So you just say the wake word ‘Alexa’, followed by your command.
“Alexa, play my rock playlist” , “Alexa, What’s the weather forecast today?” , “Alexa, re-order dishwasher tablets”
We are pretty much on the brink of the latest lazy person technology which is also genius at the same time because we have more control over menial tasks, saving us time. I do wonder though if it the start of a down hill extremely slippery slope whereby we strive to develop THE best technology that can handle everything for us, so we don’t really have to live our lives. “Alexa, select number 10 and cook it for me” It would then vend a meal from a menu and set the cooking time for you, after that it would conveniently pop through the wall onto the table complete with cutlery. Now I know some of you are thinking… actually that sounds awesome, who wants to cook?!
With Amazon Echo and it’s internal brain Alexa, you can pretty much control the central parts of your life with just a few commands. You can put music on, ask for movies, can control light switches and thermostats with the connecting equipment and so much more! It has 7 microphones just so it can hear you wherever you are in the room or over background noise, it’s really committed to giving you the best service.
So Alexa is the brain behind the operation and gets updated from the Cloud regularly. What you might not know about it though is that it continuously learns from you, the more you use it, the more it learns. Alexa learns about your speech patterns, personal preferences and vocabulary. In fact after a while, Alexa will probably know you better than your partner.
Controlling your environment
Do you have any of the systems above in the picture? Hive is a popular one, perhaps you have that? Well if you do, good news, Alexa can help you control your environment at home. Things like controlling your heating, switching lights off and even turn on the coffee machine! Bonus! You can also control these things via the app while you are out… so imagine being cold while shopping and turning your heating on ready for you to get home. Cosy!
Now Alexa has a lot of things going for it in the many products, Amazon Echo being one of them, but there are a few concerned users regarding privacy. Can it be hacked? I would by lying if I said no, of course it could be but probably at no more risk than having your smartphone sat next to you with all your data on it. Virtually anything with an internet connection can be potentially hacked. If you have a smartphone, tablet, tv, laptop, ipod, games console etc that connects to the internet via wifi, it can by hacked so you aren’t getting into something that isn’t already possible.
So there has been a little concern over privacy and what is kept in the history and the cloud, you can clear your history just as you do your other devices. So in terms of breaching your privacy, you are already doing similar things but not a lot is actually stored from my understanding. It stores your commands so you can look back at the interpretations and there’s probably a tick box for participation of sending stats back to Amazon for help to update the services.
I’ve read a number of them for the Amazon Echo and Alexa in general, and when I say a number, there are thousands. So I read through a few of the 5 stars and a few of the 1 stars. In fact the one stars don’t even make up 10% of the overall reviews, that’s pretty good.
Quite a few of the 1 stars talk about connection issues or Alexa not being able to understand what they are saying. It’s a pretty subjective thing, if you have a strong accent I can see it having difficulties, just as a human would. As for the connection issues, we’ve all had that from time to time, my wireless printer drives me nuts for that. To be fair it’s a common issue that comes with the dawn of the wireless age, you should expect it to happen a little bit to you, it’s part of the deal.
Another thing people were giving low ratings for was sound quality. Now be fair, it isn’t going to beat your mega superior sound system for quality back play, it’s just not but when it offers an all around service and by all accounts ‘not bad’ sound, can you really complain? The Amazon Echo does have a built in woofer and tweeter, so there is great scope for crisp sound with clarity but if you plan on playing music at full blast, again it will not beat your sound system – so don’t expect it to. See the picture below –
On the flip side, there are many fantastic reviews boasting about how capable it is and how it has changed their lives as a family, helping them be more organised. One review went into incredible detail and then came back after a month as well, basically saying it’s fantastic, yes the novelty has worn off but they are still enjoying it and have really accepted it as part of their family life now. He wouldn’t be without it.
If you want to look at these reviews click here and enjoy over 12,000 of them.
Would I buy it?
For myself, no. I haven’t got to that point where I need that much pinpoint control without actually doing it myself yet, when it gets to the point of controlling my oven and producing meals for me, that’s when I will be hooked.
I would however buy it as a present for someone else. It’s easy to see who would use it, if you have a friend that loves using Siri or Google on their phones to do commands and talk to, the chances are they would love this. Especially as it has so much more potential than what they can do on their phones. It’s a pretty decent Christmas present and I have seen a few people buy it for that purpose.
In terms of value for money, what you need to think about is that the internal brain of the Echo is Alexa and Alexa is monitored and updating very regularly, so you are investing into that brain not just the outer shell. Alexa is the driving force, the Echo is merely a body to greet the world in.