Puzzle Review: Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo

The latest addition to our office has been Amazon Echo. The black cylindrical contraption that incorporates AI to create human-like interaction.

The Amazon Echo is one of the first pieces of mainstream kit that allows for the ‘connected home’, being the first it’s always going to have its flaws, but it’s set the standard for future home devices. The Echo is designed for users to find information quickly, write things down, and even order a taxi. Essentially, everything you can do with Siri has transferred into a bigger device.

And that’s where we think Echo is likely to be a hit, for a time. The functionality of the Echo allows the machine to always be on, always listening, awaiting her opportunity to jump in and offer a hand. Seven built-in microphones help Amazon Echo respond efficiently across wide spaces and simultaneously filters the incoming audio, in essence picking out the questions aimed at the device.

Beckoning requests such as ‘Echo, how many pounds are in 6 ounces?’ will usually result in a correct answer, with perhaps a bit of repetition needed just to get her attention. With most simple requests, Echo does okay… If she can’t quite get the answer, she’ll send you a notification to your phone with the Bing search engine results within minutes – which is still probably a quicker way of getting an answer.

Probably the most notable feature of Echo is its ability to tailor itself to the user. Users can add ‘skills’ such as Uber, that can be accessed by the uttering a simple sentences and you can tailor Echo to give you the information on your favourite football team. What’s even better is that Echo can be updated. As new ‘skills’ are being made for the device, one simply has to ask “Echo, what new features do you have?” and she’ll reel off a list.

Aside from the fact that Echo can be slightly deaf, the conversational abilities of the machine almost natural; you can’t just have a conversation… demands have to be spoken in specific ways to access skills and individual ‘skills’. The fundamentals of the Amazon Echo, a voice-controlled kit that aids in completing the most menial of tasks, allows Echo to stand at the highest point. In a new market, with Google Home soon to be in direct competition, the Echo is a good start – no doubt there will be a continued rush to get an Echo on your shelf, but we think this might well be short-lived.

We’ve had the Echo for just over a week, and the honeymoon period has definitely worn off. After reminding the office to have a beer at 4.30 on Friday, and asking Echo to tell jokes, the novelty sadly wears off and the machine merely becomes a radio player. Needless to say, it’s a start and there’s a lot more to come from ‘connected home’ devices, not only from Amazon Echo but also with the eagerly anticipated Google Home. The ‘connected home’ will be a prominent feature over the coming months, with connective devices and technology bound to become a standard feature in the modern home.

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