An Echo For the Home

the amazon echo device

Amazon Echo

This is the Amazon Echo. The best definition that i can offer for it is a voice activated internet connected device. My wife and I received ours as part of a promotion for Amazon Prime members this past weekend. After an easy and quick setup using the free Echo App on my Android phone the Echo was listening for it’s wake word and ready to go.

What does it do? By the photo you can probably tell it plays music, as it does look like a portable Bluetooth speaker and it can function as that. Pairing is swift and simple and in little time I was playing music off of my phone. The sound is very nice with deep base you wouldn’t expect from a compact cylinder. Once the Echo is set up and connected to my Amazon account I could also stream music from my Amazon library and prime music. All I had to say was, “Amazon, play B.B. King.” In about 20 seconds the sounds of Lucille and Mr. King filled our kitchen. We could stop, raise or lower the volume and advance to the next track all via voice command. You can also access I Heart Radio and Spotify support is rumored to be coming soon.

In addition to meeting your music needs the Echo will also answer your queries. “Amazon, what is the weather?” “Amazon, what is 5 times 325?” “Amazon, how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon?” “Amazon, Wikipedia Stephen Hawking.” These answers come pretty quick though other queries were not so successful. I would attribute this to the Echo’s use of Bing instead of Google, but that is just me. You can also use the Echo to set a timer, as well as add items to a to-do-list. An unexpected but super useful feature is the Echo can keep track of a shopping list for you for display in the Echo app. All it takes is, “Amazon, add cereal to my shopping list.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that much like Amazon’s other devices, the Echo is all about showing off Amazon’s

amazon echo android app

The Amazon Echo App

vast offerings and getting you to buy things. To that end, you can set the Echo to allow purchasing of items using your One Click setting in Amazon, you can also pin code protect that so you can avoid any nasty surprises on your credit card bill. You particular use of the Echo will depend on how much you use Amazon, and if you have a Prime account and it’s associated music library.

The voice recognition is very impressive. A light ring at the top lets you know when the Echo is active and even what direction the voice is coming from. We didn’t have to train it and even switching between my and my wife’s voice did little to hinder the Echo’s fast responses. In addition, since the Echo is connected to Amazon’s cloud the promise is that as you use it the device will actually learn your patterns and get better at responding to you. As long as it doesn’t become self-aware I am good. I am sure we are just uncovering what this device will do. Amazon promises future updates with new features.

Currently the Echo sells for $199.99 which places it in the range of high-end portable Bluetooth speakers. As a Prime member I only paid $99 for mine, and at that price it was a steal. I could see one of these at the circulation desk as a curiosity item or even using the shopping list as a way to get book recommendations from patrons. Just make sure you have the buy it now feature turned off. Let us know in the comments any other ideas you can come up with for how you would use one in the library.

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~ by Vinny Alascia on February 3, 2015.

 
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