Poor voice recognition jokes aside, Apple’s Siri is really fascinating. Imagine talking to your computer using natural language and have it at your beck and call at all times, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Unsurprisingly, other smart phone OSes jumped on the bandwagon with their own version of Siri. Android has its nameless Google Now while Microsoft introduced Cortana not too long ago. Not to be left out, Amazon has also come up with their own personal virtual assistant with voice recognition abilities and they have named it Amazon Echo.
Amazon Echo actually comes as a stand-alone hardware device unlike all the other versions which are essentially apps that run on a smart phone. The Amazon Echo hardware looks very much like one of those portable Bluetooth speakers and unsurprisingly, it does do double duty as one. However, the Echo is not a portable device that you bring along with you. In fact, it needs to be plugged in and it stays put. However, it does have what Amazon calls far-field voice recognition which means that you don’t have to shout to be heard by Echo. Just speak normally when you are in the same room as Echo and it will pick up your commands.
Think of the Amazon Echo as a version of Siri that works in your home. It is always on and always listening for the wake word which in this case is “Alexa”. Amazon has a short video on their site on what the Echo is capable of. Like Siri and the other personal assistants, you can ask it all kinds of questions and it will search for answers on the internet. It can set alarms and reminders. It tells you the time and weather. It helps your kids cheat at homework. It plays music from your Amazon Music Library, Prime Music, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio. As for other unsupported services, you will have to resort to playback via your mobile device using Bluetooth. And last but not least, Echo will let you add items to your Amazon shopping list with nothing more than just a voice command.
For now, there isn’t a whole lot that the Amazon Echo can do that your current smart phone can’t. However, the premise of having an ever listening smart computer that you can just talk to at anytime without the need to fish your phone out of your pocket is definitely very intriguing. Of course, we expect Amazon to add features and capabilities to the Amazon Echo such as smart home devices integration.
The Amazon Echo will be available soon but for now sale of it is by invitation only. Head on over to the Amazon Echo page to request for one. The Amazon Echo is priced at $199 but Amazon Prime subscribers will get a discount of $100 lowering the cost of entry to just $99.
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