With Google Now, Siri, and Cortana in existence, a virtual personal assistant is not a new thing! On the other hand, movies like Hers showed a different perspective of virtual personal assistance that exploits AI to an extreme level!
However, Amazon Echo, the giant marketplace’s take on virtual PA, is a bit intriguing! It is a device, in form of a cylinder (around 9 inches tall) that listens to your voice and performs that actions that you command it to. It even has powerful built-in speakers. And it is always connected to your wifi network. To give it a command, just say the word “Alexa”, and it will wake up to listen to your commands.
The fact that it is not a mere app that comes with the phone or your smart device, but a standalone device, especially designed to be your virtual home assistant! Its function is based completely on voice-control, and will give you a unique hands-free experience. Ask for information, weather, news, or even music and get answers instantly! According to Amazon, the cylindrical-shaped device is equipped with speakers that produce room-filled sound and 7 microphones to pick up your voice from anywhere in the room. Its intelligence comes from Amazon’s cloud-based Web Service.
The device is easy to setup and you will be connected to your home network in few simple steps! Amazon Echo will surely be known as Alexa, the code word to wake up the device! In fact, it is always activated and forever connected to your Home Network through Wi-Fi, enabling it to answer to your queries without delay.
Echo can answer queries like up-to-the-minute news, weather, etc. The device gathers this information from sources like local radio stations, NPR, and ESPN (TuneIn). It can also answer to your questions on general topics and definitions by sourcing the information from Wikipedia. Ask almost anything ranging from the height of Mount Everest to how many table spoons make a teas poon! Echo has the answers!https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkOCeAtKHIc
The device is also Bluetooth enabled for uninterrupted connectivity to your smartphone or tablet. You can stream your favorite music from places like Spotify, iTunes and Pandora directly from your smart devices. Equipped with a 360-degree-firing-speaker (more like surround sound), the device is also the perfect jukebox for your family. It will play music by genre, custom playlist, as commanded!
It is also equipped with 7 microphones strategically placed on the top rim. The sensors use beam-forming technology that can detect your voice from any corner of the room. It also cancels background noises, including music, so that it can filter your voice, even while it is playing music!
Echo is always upgrading and evolving. It constantly learns and add new functionality. It will adapt to your voice as you keep on using it. It will adapt to your speech pattern, vocabulary, and personal preferences!
Also see: Open Mic+ for Google Now
However, Echo does not have a battery so it has to be kept connected to a power source all the time, which is odd. Maybe Amazon is simply trying to make the point that Echo is not meant for the pocket and that it always has to be docked somewhere in the room. It doesn’t seem to have an on/off button either! Weird? Though, it does have a button to turn off the mic.
The package will include a companion app for your smartphone (Fire OS and Android) so that you can remotely control the device. It app also support iOS and Desktop browsers.
Amazon Echo is unique due to the fact that it is the only device (till date) especially designed to be your home assistant. The device looks quite capable of doing what Amazon claims it does. All we can do is wait for its release. Amazon Echo is priced at $ 199, however prime members can get it for $ 99, a limited-time offer. However, the device is currently available by invite only (you can request for an invite on Amazon Echo’s website).
All in all, the build and functionality of the product looks good! I don’t have any complain, what-so-ever, about the device, unless I get my hands on it. And oh! Unless it tries to take over the world and enslave all humans!