Upon first hearing about the Amazon Echo, a device that sits in the home and receives voice-powered commands, I wasn’t even remotely convinced that this could be a good idea. For one, the idea of Amazon listening to every word I say was disconcerting, and voice-powered computational tools (such as Siri and Google Now) have yet to really impress me.
But in practice, the Amazon Echo is one of the more powerful voice-powered devices on the market.
Users simply say “Alexa” to initiate a command, and can ask a wide range of questions, add items to their Amazon cart, add notes to Evernote, and control IoT devices in the home (including the Phillips Hue Lightbulbs and WiMo switches, currently).
And because it’s in the home, the Amazon Echo offers a more focused experience than products like Siri or Google Now, which attempt to live up to the standard of a smartphone by doing everything at once.
Alexa isn’t perfect — she sometimes misses her cue to answer or gets confused, and there is a limited set of questions you can ask — but for $179, Fitz and I were more than impressed with her capabilities. Plus, Amazon is opening up tools so that developers and gadget-makers can integrate their technology with the Amazon Echo, which could make the device an attractive option as the central portal for your in-home computational needs.
*The Amazon Echo retails for $179 for Amazon Prime members and $199 for non-Prime members. It was originally available for $99 for Prime members, thus the confusion in the video, which was recorded well before time of publishing.