Late last year Amazon announced the pending release of the Echo, a standalone device that would sit in your home or office and listen to voice commands and respond in a Siri-like or Google Now-like fashion. The first Amazon Echo units have shipped and I received one of them, opening it up and putting it to use for a few days this week.
At its core, the Echo is a collection of microphones and speakers, connected to the internet through Wi-Fi. Using the keyword of “Alexa” (or you can change it to “Amazon”) you stir Echo from its slumber to respond to requests for information, streaming music and lists or timers. Voice recognition is fantastic and the speed at which Echo responds to voice commands is impressive, moving along at a quicker pace than either Google’s or Apple’s options.
Users that have uploaded their music collection to Amazon’s cloud library will be able to access that music through the 2.5-in subwoofer and 2.0-in tweeter, both of which add up to surprisingly good audio performance for such a small device. Amazon Prime users will have access to the company’s collection of including streaming music as well, though that collection is notably smaller than something like Spotify. Music from Amazon’s digital music store is the one item you can purchase solely through voice commands.
Adding things to a shopping list, asking for fact-based information and telling lame jokes all happen efficiently. But the drawback to the Echo is its lack of knowledge about the rest of my life. The device has no ability to know about my next calendar appointment, my incoming emails, my estimated drive time to the work. Google does though, and I can’t help but think that a Google iteration of this exact item would be a better solution.
Check out the video below to see Amazon Echo in action and determine if this device deserves a spot in your home.
Big Amazon is watching,
Big Amazon is watching, Someone should get one of these interacting with a Furby, much hilarity will ensue, as the metrics gathering/sales pushing meets the Furby language, I’ll bet before long the Furby would be shilling for Amazon.
Great review. Please update
Great review. Please update how it interacts with multiple people. For example can my friends come over and start buying songs like “Never Gonna Give You Up”. I know the risk is much lower now but an April 2008 poll by SurveyUSA estimated that at least 18 million American adults had been rickrolled. I’m just wondering if Amazon is looking out for our protection.
There doesn’t seem to be any
There doesn't seem to be any identity recognition. You'll have to rely on the physical security of your house, and muting its input when that crazy friend of yours is over 🙂
Requested an invite on the
Requested an invite on the 16th. Received the invite to purchase on the 21st with an estimated ship date of June. Hopefully it will be sooner than that.
Taylor Swift. Really Ryan?
Taylor Swift. Really Ryan?
Very reasonable and
Very reasonable and fair review. I’ve owned it for almost two months (I had to be in the first wave) and here’s what I’ve learned:
It’s really good for:
Checking weather or the time
Asking basic Wikipedia questions if you’re too lazy to search via a computer
Many people (as seen in the Amazon forums) love to ask stupid questions and share the results (Alexa, do you love me? Alexa, what is the meaning of life?). That’s fun for about 5 minutes (or if you have friend over) but that “cuteness” wears thin pretty quickly, I think.
Where it needs improvement:
It can do “to do” and shopping lists, but you have to enter items one at a time and then wait while Alexa gives you verbal confirmation. Right now, it takes longer to tell Alexa what to add than it is to write them down. It would be nice if you could add a string of items at once. For example: “Alexa, add eggs, new item milk, new item bread, new item…etc.” Sound redundant? Perhaps, but it is 10x better than what you have to do now. Trust me.
Long story short, playing music is good; options and features for managing music need to be enhanced. A lot. I won’t bore people with the details but once you play with an Echo for about an hour, you’re like “Where’s this feature? Or, how do I do this?” Answer: right now, you probably can’t.
Final verdict: 7. Actually, I’m giving it a 7 not because it deserves a 7 in it’s current state, but because this product has a lot of potential. I repeat: the Echo HAS a lot of potential. In truth, the Echo could easily garner a 9 or 10 with the right tweaks and improvements. If this were the final product, my rating would fall to a 4.
Keep us posted Ryan on your thoughts.
Perhaps a more personal type
Perhaps a more personal type alternative http://www.jibo.com/