Technology is ever-changing and there are many ways to infuse it into almost every part of our lives, even our homes. Surely, you’ve heard all the talk about having a “smart home.” One way that you can start the smart home journey is by having an Amazon Echo. Today, you’ll be learning all about the Amazon Echo and why you may need one for your home.
What is the Amazon Echo?
According to Amazon, the Amazon Echo is essentially “a hands-free speaker you control with your voice.”
To my family, the Amazon Echo is “Siri for your home, except way better.”
The Amazon Echo is the actual device and it connects to the Alexa Voice Service to perform tasks like playing music, providing information, news, sports scores, weather, and more. It performs these tasks and skills simply via your voice activation. Amazon also makes a smaller version called the Amazon Echo Dot.
What does it look like?
Esthetically, it comes in 2 different colors, white and black. Personally, we liked the white color for our home, because we planned to put our Amazon Echo in the sitting area. It just seemed to match better. If you want it to blend in a little with your home decor then it’s possible the Amazon Echo Black will work better for you.
A quick internet search for Amazon Echo skins revealed that there are companies who are making skin/decals that are compatible with the Amazon Echo. This Yellow Amazon Echo Skin is pretty if you’re looking for a feminine touch for your Echo. Also, this marble Amazon echo skin, as well as this minimal slate gray Amazon Echo skin looks great. I’m excited about the thought of updating the look of our device in the upcoming weeks. However, I really like the minimal look of the white for now.
How does the Amazon Echo work?
Well, it’s sort of complicated, but not really. Amazon is an internet MOGUL, so this device/speaker works with everything Amazon., plus any skills that are added. Convenient? I say…smart. According to Amazon, the Amazon Echo has seven microphones and special technology that can hear you from across the room—the system can hear you speak, even if music is playing. Echo is also an highly capable speaker that can fill any room with 360° sound.
When you want to use Echo, simply say the wake word, “Alexa,” and Echo lights up and streams audio to the cloud, where the Alexa Voice Service is leveraged to recognize and respond to your request instantly. (Source: Amazon)
Skills are basically mini apps within Alexa that you enable based on your needs. There are over 10,000 skills that work with Alexa including, but not limited to, lifestyle, sports, news (Fox), and travel skills (Expedia).
How well does the speaker actually work?
We actually tried the speaker the last few days…playing music and then interrupting it with “Alexa, what time is it?” or other commands. In the same room, we found that Alexa was able to hear very well, turned down the music, and then proceeded to answer the question. However, from my bedroom closet, which is probably about 100 feet away and out of range, Alexa could not hear me. As I was rushing to get dressed for the day (that’s everyday), and asked “Alexa, what time is it?”, I got no response. So, I proceeded to ask my daughter (who was in the same room as the Amazon Echo) “could you please ask Alexa what time it is?” Alexa worked!
This scenario proved that we will need an Amazon Echo Dot in our bedroom. It’s definitely a place in my home that I will use the device and skills. Also, we may need one in our dining room. The kitchen is within range to the sitting area and Alexa seems to pickup our voices just fine from the kitchen.
Functions/ Skills we love about the Amazon Echo
As a busy Mom, there are simple tasks/skills that I find helpful. Personally, I run (sometimes, I do run, so don’t judge) around in the mornings, fixing school lunch, getting dressed for the day, grabbing coffee-to-go, and trying to think of what’s on my schedule. Even with master planning, I am very busy and have lots of activities to tend to on a a daily basis. When I don’t know where my smart phone is, being able to yell “Alexa, what time is it?” is actually very comforting. Additionally, I’ve already started adding items to my to-do list and shopping list. Very helpful for busy Moms, Dads, and professionals! There isn’t a person I can think of that can’t benefit from these simple yet beneficial functions.
Additional functions that many users may find helpful are music integration, with Pandora, Amazon Music, Spotify and more. Retrieving game scores, setting up an Uber, finding out the latest news, getting the weather for the weekend, and even playing fireplace sounds are all capabilities that the Amazon Echo can handle. Just use the Alexa app/skill store and enable the skills you’d like to add. We already activated the Philips Hue skill for our Philips Hue White Starter Pack and Bridge.
Will you start the trek to having a smart home? Join us as we move to a smarter home in the upcoming months. Come back soon for more technology posts!
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