I was one of the lucky buyers who received my Amazon Echo late last year. As a prime member I paid $99 for the Echo which came with the remote control. Today the Amazon Echo costs $179 and the remote control is $29.99 extra. The Echo got a rare perfect 10 rating when I reviewed it on ZDNet.
I use the Echo all day every day when I’m at home. It is a decent audio system, a web search appliance, and personal assistant all rolled into one. It is voice activated with an array of seven microphones and can hear commands anywhere in even large rooms. I regularly tell Alex, the AI default name, to “play Led Zeppelin station on Pandora” as soon as I walk in the front door of my loft which is about 30 feet from the Echo.
The Echo has learned my preferences, vocabulary, and speech patterns over time and is extremely accurate in interpreting even somewhat complex voice commands. At times it seems Alexa can almost predict what I am going to say. She’s become the invisible friend in the room waiting to do things for me.
I can listen to music from several streaming services, all through voice commands. I can ask Alexa to look something up on Wikipedia. I can tell Alexa to tell me a joke, although they’re not very good. I can ask about my schedule for the day, what the weather will be like, and get the headline news from the networks I prefer.
I’ve even gotten accustomed to using Alexa to help with my work. I often get dimensions for devices I’m covering in either metric or inches but not both. I simply ask Alexa to “convert 385mm to inches” and she tells me. I now do this without thinking about it.
Alexa will control smart home appliances but I don’t have any. I’m thinking of getting some smart light bulbs so I can tell her to turn them on and off when I move around the apartment.
The Amazon Echo is one of the best hundred bucks I’ve spent in a long time, and I’ve gotten so used to interacting with Alexa I’d certainly miss her if the Echo was suddenly gone.