Amazon Echo is a device that works as a voice activated intelligent assistant. You speak any questions you have and Echo answers them through the Alexa service. Calling ‘Alexa’ activates the Echo and it retrieves information for you such as the weather, what’s in your calendar and other useful things.
There are 2 devices, the Echo and Echo Dot, the larger version Echo, at £149 has a speaker so you can have quality sound and play music lists or the radio for example. The smaller Dot version is £49 and does the same but with a small speaker so not the rich sound quality from the larger device. The idea is that your main room or largest room would potentially house the larger Echo device and you would use it to play music and similar, and then the smaller devices might be in other rooms so you still have the functionality. They connect to other devices on your network – some people might use thermostats, lights or plus that have wifi and those can then be controlled through Alexa. It is an easy way to control networked devices in your home.
Some of the features people are finding most useful are;
- Asking Alexa the time.
- How’s the weather? which will give you detailed weather, with highs and lows and what to expect later in the day.
- Also you can ask for what’s in the headlines for today, and you can get the current news on a morning from the different news services.
- Setting a timer, ask Alexa to set timers when you’re cooking or needing to time an activity. Then just ask Alexa to stop when the timer goes off or you no longer need it.
You can ask Alexa for a specific artist or genre of music. You might say Alexa, play David Bowie. It will shuffle songs and then play them as a playlist. When using it to play a music list or music in a playlist you can ask Alexa to lower (or play louder) the volume, or play next, skip, play again or similar commands to control music with your voice.
If you are an Uber registered user – Uber is a taxi service available in most cities – you can ask, “Alexa, request an Uber ride“. This will then have Alexa tell you how far away Uber is from your location and ask you if you want to book it.
Add items to a shopping list, ask Alexa to add things to your shopping list. This list is also located in the amazon alexa app on a smartphone. Anyone logged into the amazon account will be able to have access to this list and can order items through amazon directly. On a similar feature is to add things to a to-do list, and write notes about things you need to do. You can ask Alexa what things are listed.
Ask Alexa what’s on your calendar, she will tell you of the next few upcoming events and appointments.
You can also set alarms, and recurring alarms so you wake up on a morning. You can also set a sleep timer to turn off services after a certain amount of time which is great for bedtime.
Integration with Kindle as well means that you can ask Alexa to read from your Kindle books or if you’re an Audible user who has audio books, Alexa can play those for you. You can operate it in a similar way to the music service and pause, or jump forward.
The idea is that you can ask Alexa for information that you’d want, maybe sports scores or where is nice to eat.
and some quirky things to try:
ask Alexa to flip a coin and she will choose heads or tails for you to make your decision
ask Alexa to tell you a joke,
say ‘meow’ and there will be random cats meowing until you ask it to stop.
You can also ask Alexa what new features she has, the services updates regularly and improvements and services are added so it can be difficult to keep up with it. To be sure you don’t miss out on what it can do – just ask!
You can control a smart home from Alexa too. Build up the services you want and then they can be connected so you can control it. Services such as heating, lighting and even door locks can now be automated and controlled with your voice at an affordable price. This can be from Philips light hue, Belkin WeMo and for more information you can visit Amazon for their smart home details: https://www.amazon.co.uk/home-automation/b?ie=UTF8&node=4370276031
These are some of the amazing technologies that are available for an affordable price and can make a difference by just using your voice to access services and information.