Seriously. Amazon Echo is just cool and it may even be the start of something much bigger. Ever thought about talking to a device that can answer all your questions, play music and accomplish simple verbal tasks and commands. Okay, so that is cool but Siri does that right? Well, yes and no.
What is Amazon Echo?
Thought you would never ask. Echo is the first real attempt at vocal home management where you can simply say a command or make a request and it comes true. Like failed attempts at smart home devices, there are always the physical limitations and dependencies on hardware to accomplish physical tasks. In other words, to turn off the lights or adjust the thermostat, you have to buy the accessories like the voice remote or the WeMo plug-in devices. They are already available and you can see all the available accessories if you scroll to the bottom of this article.
If you want less of a footprint you can get the smaller version appropriately labeled Amazon Dot or if voice activated assistance is not your thing, you can get the Amazon Tap where you tap the mic button on the unit to interact.
The Amazon Echo starts around $179.99 while the Amazon Dot retails for $89.99. If you prefer the physical trigger then look at the Amazon Tap going for $129.99. To learn more or to purchase these items, follow the links. They will take you directly to Amazon – your trusted online source.
What Does Amazon Echo Do?
Another great question, but the real question is “What does Amazon Echo not do?” Okay, maybe that is going just a little too far. The Amazon Echo can’t do a lot of things. Yet! It is, however, the first step toward having a mainstream market, automated home butler. As the Amazon Echo and its accessories expand, it will become capable of much more.
Currently, here are some of the things it can do to make your life easier.
- Plays all your music from Prime Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and more using just your voice. It can even play your iTunes library if you import it.
- Fills the room with immersive, 360º omni-directional audio
- Allows hands-free convenience with voice-control
- Hears you from across the room with far-field voice recognition, even while music is playing
- Answers questions, reads audiobooks and the news, reports traffic and weather, gives info on local businesses, provides sports scores and schedules, and more using the Alexa Voice Service
- Controls lights, switches, and thermostats with compatible WeMo, Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, Wink, Insteon, Nest, and ecobee smart home devices
- Always getting smarter and adding new features and skills–over 100 added since launch, including Domino’s and Uber
Granted, the bullet list above is from Amazon, but here are some critical points that are easily missed. Amazon Echo is working to be platform agnostic so it can play or do across multiple devices and platforms. That makes it universally acceptable and this is very important to the future success of the Amazon Echo platform. Where you have a phone connection and Amazon Echo, it has the ability to do your tasks for you including ordering a pizza or getting you an Uber ride without you having to pickup a phone. Whether we realize it or not, this is a serious step toward home automation services.
Amazon Echo vs. Siri
What about Siri? Wasn’t that the first try at voice automation? Short answer is yes, Siri is a valid effort around voice automation and interacting verbally with a device designed to make your life easier. There are two points, however, where we have to make a distinction between the Amazon Echo (Alexa Voice) service and Siri.
First, the feud between Amazon Echo and Siri is going to be fought on different battlegrounds. Where Siri is an application geared toward mobile interface and use, Amazon Echo is focused on the home and helping a user manage their environment. There is a significant crossover section and that is where Echo comes in. The question that will differentiate this battle is whether our smartphone is a viable platform to manage all of our services and conveniences.
This brings us to our second argument. Siri is buggy and often just does not translate well. This is a source of frustration for all of us who are on an iphone. You say “syrup”, Siri says “tomato”. Let’s not be too critical of Siri though. The Apple team did a great job with the hardware they had to work with. There is still a huge disconnect between what the phone is capable of and what home based hardware can do. The chasm is closing, but not in time to prevent Amazon Echo from taking a large share of the voice automation market.
In the end, Amazon Echo wins over Siri (for now) and what started as interactive bluetooth speakers may end up winning the vocal automation war.
Amazon Echo Accessories