I don’t think even Amazon had any idea how quickly the Amazon Echo speaker would take off. Originally launched in 2014, it began life as a wireless speaker with a few smart tricks. Since then it has rapidly evolved into an accomplished digital assistant and smart home hub. If you haven’t yet discovered the device, now is a good time to read my ultimate Amazon Echo guide for beginners.
What is Amazon Echo?
As I mentioned, the Amazon Echo began as a wireless speaker with some voice commands. The device is about the size and shape of a Pringle’s can in black or white. It plugs into the mains and needs a Wi-Fi connection to work. It has microphones, the speaker and access to a virtual assistant in Alexa.
Alexa lives in the cloud and has been updated steadily since release. As long as you have your Amazon Echo connected and have the Alexa app, you can utilize a wide range of voice commands that can access news, weather and smart home features.
What can Amazon Echo do for you?
While initially a Bluetooth speaker, the Amazon Echo is now so much more. You can ask Alexa to wake you up in the morning, set as reminder for something, order music or items from Amazon online, listen to music or an audiobook and control aspects of a smart home.
Alexa also supports third-party ‘skills’ which are apps from other developers that add even more breadth to the device. Some of them include reading your twitter feed out loud, streaming Spotify, ordering a ride from Uber, ordering takeout and much more.
Connect other smart devices to Alexa and controlling many elements of your home is just a matter of asking Alexa to perform the action.
Why is Alexa and Amazon Echo so cool?
Let me give you an example of why I think Amazon Echo is so cool.
Me: ‘Alexa, add item to my schedule.’
Alexa: ‘Okay, when?’
Me: ‘Three o’clock’.
Alexa: ‘Okay, on what day?’
Alexa: ‘What is the item?’
Me: ‘Take dog to vets.’
Alexa: ‘Okay, I have added take dog to vets for three pm today.’
Me: ‘Alexa, play Spotify playlist.’
Me: ‘Alexa, who wrote Divine Comedy?’
Alexa: ‘Dante Alighieri wrote Divine Comedy in the 14th Century.’
That is just the tip of the iceberg.
Setting up Amazon Echo
Once you have your Amazon Echo, setting it up is simple. Plug it into the mains, download the Amazon Alexa app to your smartphone, log into your Amazon account and setup access to your Wi-Fi network. That’s it.
You can use the Amazon app to change settings. Two settings you will want to check out first are the wake word, which Echo listens out for in order to activate and the wake sound the Echo plays when it acknowledges the wake word. I turn off the wake sound as a neat blue light also tells you it is listening.
You can also use the app to link Alexa to your life. It can interact with Google Calendar, your Amazon store account and various other accounts to help control your life. You should also configure your preferred news sources and music streaming service while you’re there.
Ten neat voice interactions for Amazon Echo
Here are my personal top ten voice interactions for Alexa and Amazon Echo.
1. Alexa, did the Raiders win?
2. Alexa, play Spotify.
3. Alexa, set timer for 15 minutes.
4. Alexa, start 7 minute workout.
5. Alexa, what’s traffic like right now?
6. Alexa, turn on lounge light.
7. Alexa, reorder pasta sauce.
8. Alexa, what’s on my calendar today?
9. Alexa, what restaurants are nearby?
10. Alexa, how do I say “more red wine please” in Italian?
Privacy concerns with Amazon Echo
It is important to note that if you buy and use Amazon Echo, you are living with a device that listens to everything you say. You can of course switch the microphone or the device off, but it’s easy to forget you are being monitored. Alexa listens to your voice to learn how to better understand you and while there is absolutely no indication that either Amazon or the government cares about your conversations, it would be remiss of me not to mention security or privacy.
Get more out of Alexa with How to save money with Amazon Alexa and the Top 10 IFTT recipes for your smart home.