Is the online retail giant’s Echo more than simply a stay at home Siri with Bluetooth speakers?
Amazon’s Echo is an internet connected, voice controlled set of Bluetooth speakers. This means that at it’s most basic, the 9 inch cylinder is a gadget that will listen out for song requests and then play them for you through an internet streaming service such as Amazon music or TuneIn. But early adopters are claiming that you’ll end up using the device for much more than that.
Most Importantly, Echo Offers Voice Control and Bluetooth Speakers
The fact that Echo is a Bluetooth speaker may be one of it’s most useful features. This means that you can quickly and easily use it to play music through your smartphone, your iPad or any other Bluetooth device. Though the Echo itself lacks a display, suggesting that voice control alone should be sufficient for most uses, the Echo remote is built with music in mind, including volume controls and playback options. In addition to voice control and the remote, there is also an app, which is there for when a display is desperately needed and also for the initial setup.
Amazon have made plenty of bold claims about their voice recognition software – the Echo is named as such for it’s ability to hear your voice commands no matter where you are in the room. Given that the device will be playing music a lot of the time, it’s very important that Echo can noise-cancel in order to differentiate between the music it is playing and new song requests. Initial reviews on the issue are positive.
The Echo’s always on, always listening features have been criticised by some who point out that Amazon, as a retailer, would love to profit by eavesdropping on your family’s daily conversations. Has Amazon done enough to convince consumers that such a feature won’t become an invasion of our privacy? It seems as if Echo won’t pay attention to your conversation unless you mention the wake word: “Alexa.” But if the device is listening out for a wake word, couldn’t it be listening out for other snippets of information too?
The sound quality is reasonably good for its size, but it won’t have you replacing your existing sound system anytime soon. True audiophiles interested in voice or smart control for their speakers would probably be better served by a hub that adds connectivity to their speaker of choice. Echo caters primarily for those who prefer their music quick and casual.
Echo has Search Capabilities and Can Function as a Stay at Home Siri
The Echo’s search capabilities and voice control enable it to listen to your question, trawl through the internet to find an answer, then give out some relevant information. In the examples given by Amazon, you can ask Echo “Will it rain tomorrow?” or “Wikipedia: Abraham Lincoln” and the device will give you a weather forecast or read the Wikipedia entry on Abraham Lincoln.
In addition, the device can organise your to do lists (including, surprise, surprise, your Amazon wish list), manage your alarms, reminders and play radio stations. Whether those of us who already use personal assistant software, such as Siri or Google Now, will feel additional benefits from more of the same but in a stay at home version is debatable, though not beyond the realms of possibility.
Speculators suggest that we’ve only seen the beginnings of what Echo is capable of and, on the basis of Amazon’s promises of updates to features and services, they might well be right. In between updates, it’s prudent for homeowners to remember that Echo is always listening and maybe even learning too. It’s entirely possible that Echo will be the platform from which Amazon formally enters the connected home race, after all, it’s not such a large step from “Wikipedia: Abraham Lincoln” to “Echo, turn off the lights.”
At KAV London we keep our fingers on the pulse when it comes to products that have the potential to change the smart home and AV technology markets. We’re always happy to discuss the latest products and how they might fit into your home on 020 7736 1483.