Amazon Echo – A Transformative Home Technology
Amazon Echo Continues to Grow and Expand as a Transformative Home Technology
Amazon Echo first showed up in November 2014 as a smart speaker. It could play music and should you ask, it would report the weather, set timers and alarms. It has been a while since then and the Echo has grown impressively.
At this point, it would be disingenuous to look at the Echo as a mere speaker – it is so much more than that. Alexa, Amazon’s voice service that powers Echo has made strides, and with her (it does feel better to call Alexa her, rather than it) the Echo is an assistant that can play your music, read books and news for you, control your home automation devices and even order a pizza for you or hail an Uber cab.
Amazon Echo Review – Design, Variants and Accessories
Priced at $179.99, the Amazon Echo is a cylindrical gadget available in two colors: black, and white. It measures 9.25-inches high and has a diameter of 3.27-inches. With its rather plain and simple look, the Echo isn’t quite looking for attention as a design piece, though it’s elegant enough to not clash with room décor or look out of place.
Lower half of the Echo device has perforations to mark the speaker area, while the upper side is mostly unadorned, with the exception of the top. Echo’s top has the volume ring that you can move to crank the volume up or down. While you do that, the light ring will turn white and display the volume level. Although it is more efficient – and more in tune with the device’s functions to simply give a voice command and have Alexa change the volume.
There are two buttons on the top. One will cut off the microphones and stop Alexa from listening in, the other is the “action button” to help with setting up the device and other administrative functions.
Echo isn’t built for portability. The device has no battery and needs to stay connected to a power outlet. If portability is what you have in mind, you can look see the battery powered Echo Tap. It has battery backup with the caveat that you will have to hit (tap) a button to have Alexa listen, although that setting can be changed to the usual “always on” mode.
Should you have something more compact in mind, the more compact Echo Dot (or the newer Echo Dot 2) have you covered.
As an accessory, you can carry along the Voice Remote that will hear your commands and relay them to the Echo. It is especially useful if the room is noisy – maybe you have guests or the speakers blaring music, and would rather not should across the room at Alexa.
Amazon Echo Functions and Performance
Echo fulfills its duties as a speaker. Amazon claims the Echo’s downward firing speaker provides “immersive, 360º omni-directional audio.” Claims aside, Echo performs admirably well, though as the volume goes up, there is a marked decrease in sound quality. You will certainly not be impressed by the Echo’s sound output at high volume and there are better options available as standalone speakers for the price range.
Of course, if you’re interested in buying an Echo, you’re not considering it for its functions as a mere speaker. It’s Alexa that’s the highlight here and she does her job remarkably well. Echo uses on-device keyword spotting and wakes up the moment it hears the word “Alexa.”
Echo’s array of seven noise-cancelling microphones with “far-field” voice recognition will receive the commands clearly, even from a distance. Once it starts listening, a portion of the light ring on the Echo will glow to point towards the direction of the voice it’s listening. Apart from looking rather cool, this has the advantage of letting the user know that Alexa is hearing their command. And you can count on her to do her job, for she rarely misses commands, provided she understands your instructions.
While we’re on topic, there’s a chance you may not be as willing to anthropomorphize Alexa as I am. In that case, you may set the device to answer to other available keywords like “Amazon” and “Echo.”
Apps, Integrations and IoT
There is an increasing number of devices and services that are connecting to, and offering native support for Alexa. Plus, with Amazon opening the door to developers, there is an ever increasing library of commands, scenes and abilities at your disposal with Alexa.
If that doesn’t work for you, there’s always the option for cooking up a recipe at IFTTT to get Echo working with your other smart devices or services. All of this helps make Alexa better, and is a major reason why she can often outperform her competition in Google Home, and Apple’s Homekit.
Echo has the Amazon ecosystem at its heart. It will, rather easily and eagerly, let you order from Amazon and check order status, read your books from Kindle, play Audible books, and stream music from your Amazon Prime Music account. If you ask Echo to play Katy Perry’s Roar, it will play the track from Prime music. You’ll have to be a bit more specific for using other services like Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn or others. “Alexa, play Katy Perry’s Roar on Spotify” will get the music flowing from Spotify.
Native support for Alexa in smart devices like Samsung SmartThings, WeMo, Philips Hue, and Nest makes home automation simpler. You can ask Alexa to turn lights on or off, control the thermostat, and arm the home security system (on compatible gadgets). Support for managing Smart TVs should be available soon, and with an ever increasing number of compatible gadgets, you can expect Echo (and Alexa) to provide an enhanced home automation experience.
Final thoughts on Amazon Echo
Amazon Echo is an impressive gadget that becomes formidable with its integration with Alexa. It may come labelled as a “Home Audio Speaker” but that’s merely the tip of the iceberg. This is a futuristic gadget at the forefront as a home digital assistant, but more importantly as a gateway to home automation and the Internet of Things.
A geek or for that matter, a normal user might find delight in the novelty and the vast array of features this device offers. For the elderly and disabled however, the use of Echo and automation in general can be extremely useful.
Amazon Echo price && Where to buy Amazon Echo
The Amazon Echo is practically a gateway to a futuristic upgrade for your home. And as a transformative gadget, it certainly is worth buying at $179.
Want to have Amazon Echo now? The best price for Echo we can find all over the internet is $179, so the best place to buy it is Amazon store. Amazon may have some limited time offer & promo code for it. Any way, you can at least get the free shipping from there.