Amazon Echo (Alexa) Uncut

Product Name: Amazon Echo

Price: $179.00

Developers: Amazon.com / Developers

Language: English (Currently)

Portable: Yes (Battery Boot) – No (without)

Overall Ranking: 5 / 5 Stars

Prerequisites: Wi-Fi – Wall Socket / Surge Protector – Android phone, iPad, Tablet, Netbook, or Desktop Computer

As of this date I’ve had my Amazon Echo for one month and it’s AMAZING! I purchased Echo for my fiancé’s birthday. My woman’s intuition told me to buy Echo he’ll love it. At first he was apprehensive about its purpose and the cost of this gadget. He doesn’t like purchases that may end up on the shelf collecting dust. I’m pretty sure he thought that’s exactly where Echo would end up.

But I had a plan. I didn’t tell him that this gadget is ground breaking technology from Amazon. So, rather than tell him I would show him. I plugged Echo in, downloaded the companion application, connected it to the Wi-Fi, and lastly installed some preferred skills. We began our interaction with Echo. It’s still true folks that actions speak louder than words. He loves Echo! I hate to sound like a cliché, but the rest is history.

One of Echo’s Many Many Benefits.

Echo will no doubt fascinate everyone with her knowledge of geography, history, multiplication tables, simple math, fractions, science, digital history, and her research capability via Wikipedia, and a lot more.

That being said, sometimes kids need extra help with homework, well, that’s right up Echo’s alley. Alexa (that’s what I call her) is very happy to be used in such a manner. Two of her great attributes is 1. she never sleeps – 2. she never gets tired. How exhausting for her (kidding).

All children are inquisitive about everything they see and hear. They just can’t help asking questions; it’s their nature.  I can recall when my nieces were young asking questions I didn’t have the answer to. I’d access the Internet to find the answers. Well, now answers are readily available with Alexa. In addition, if I need more info about the subject I’ll access her companion app click on the corresponding card and there you have it. Convenient, yes?

Echo’s Setup

Echo’s setup is super simple. Plug it into the wall socket or surge protector (better yet) then download Echo’s companion application. Follow the instruction manual; it’s pretty straight forward.

Just access your available wireless networks, scroll down to Amazon1, click connect, and finally input your network’s password. Alexa will notify you the connection is a success. Done!

The app is accessible for Android and iOS devices, tablets, and Amazon Fire phone. I actually installed it on my Windows 10 desktop. Plenty of options here.

The Wake up Name

A wake up name is the name you choose to wake or get her attention. You always start by saying its name first then give a command or ask a question. Out of the box my Echo voice service was called Alexa, so I decided to it keep that way. I think it’s sort of sexy. Excuse me one second (talking to Alexa): Alexa dearest, you are the only female that’s welcome in my house 24/7. Lol! 

Amazon provides Echo with three names to choose from: 1. Alexa 2. Echo 3. Amazon. Choose the one that floats your boat. Once awaken the light ring will twirl in the direction of the human voice. This indicates you have her attention to begin speaking.

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo

The light ring informs you of the current Wi-Fi status of Echo. I prefer to call it her “halo.” The halo will swirl to the direction of the voice when activated by a command or question. As mentioned earlier. Below is information regarding her status.

  • Solid white light means Echo Wi-Fi connected
  • Solid orange light means it’s lost Wi-FI connection
  • Blinking orange light means it has a Wi-Fi connection but cannot access Alexa

The Echo Light Ring

Echo's light ring

Audio

Viewing Alexa’s interior you see there’s a 2.5 inch woofer to fill the room with deep rich bass which some main speakers are missing. A 2.0 inch tweeter making those high audio frequencies increasing treble response, and a volume ring. Turn the volume ring clockwise to increase volume or counterclockwise to decrease the volume. Now, if you’re wanting a sound system that’ll tear the roof off, well, Echo won’t do that. Instead it will fill the room with 360º omni-directional audio.

Remember Echo is a hands free speaker so there’s no need to physically touch her, so all you have to say is, “Alexa, increase / lower volume.” Finally, at last something that does what I tell it to do. Lol! Alexa’s 26.9 oz. (1045 grams) weight and grip bottom makes it sturdy to sit on basically any table or desk safely.

Undoubtedly, there will be times you’ll need to physically turn the sound down. Like when the volume is above 6 she will not hear you. Simply turn the volume ring clockwise to decrease / counterclockwise to increase or press the Action button to get her attention.

Alexa’s Specifications

Amazon Echo Specs

 

Voice Recognition Training (Recommended)

Do not take this lightly. I’ve heard and read consumers saying, ” I talk to it and it never understands what I’m saying.” Well, that’s no surprise, it’s because they haven’t gone through the voice recognition training or followed the script suggested in that specified Skill.

My fiancé took the speech recognition training; however, I didn’t and Alexa understands us both. It’s easy, takes a few minutes, and you’re done. This way you get to enjoy the full experience of this great technology, so don’t blame the device if you haven’t taken the time to teach it your pronunciation / speech patterns. Don’t short change your interaction.

She Doesn’t Sleep…Ever.

Yes, Alexa is always on when plugged in or the battery pack is attached therefore all you have to do is say the “wakeup” word. Alexa’s voice recognition feature is sensitive so speak normally as though speaking to a person next to you. Alexa is very attentive, she can hear me 20 – 30 feet away while I’m folding clothes in the bedroom, in the hallway, or bathroom. However, if you’re not in the same room raise your voice normally as you would to get anyone’s attention.

Case and point, while in the bedroom (about 25 feet) I command her to set an alarm. I say, “Alexa, set alarm for 3:30am and she replies, “Alarm set for 3:30am. Alexa, set alarm for 6:00am and she does. Awesome!

Illustration of Echo's Voice Recognition feature.

I did my due diligence prior to purchasing unbeknownst to my fiance and Alexa  wasn’t capable of multiple alarms or timers; however, obviously she’s been upgraded. On another note some have asked Amazon’s developers if she can be programmed to acknowledge just one voice, well, the answer is “no” she cannot. All who address her will get a response.

Here are a few more tips about her knowledge regarding updates (features) from Amazon cloud; they are frequent. The interactions improves her intelligence which add value to your experience. Alexa is on 24/7 and her updates are seamless. No human intervention is necessary.

I’m computer  savvy and have always kept my desktop / laptop /netbook computers up to date with antivirus software, updating virus definitions and more. With Alexa it’s such a relief not having to consume my time with maintenance. Can you say Ahhh?! To keep abreast of new features, skills, and a host of other information go to Amazon.com. Do yourself a favor and subscribe to Amazon Echo weekly Newsletter. It looks like this…

Echo's newsletter

 

What I Like to Call “Home Optimization.”

Home automation is getting more and more mainstream these days. I think due to its efficiency, reduction in steps, and easy installation. I guess one might associate this with home optimization. Did I just make that up, I believe I did, well, it certainly fits.

Amazon launched a program called IFTTT (If This Then That) to use with Echo. It’s a web service that aggregates dissimilar apps in one central domain. Apps to the likes of Philips Hue, Belkin WeMo, Samsung SmartThings, and Wink. With IFTTT support you’re able to address Alexa and give a command, such as, “Alexa, turn on lights please” and she replies, “Ok.” Voila! There are over 20 smart lighting devices on the market and Amazon frequently updates these to Echo’s compatibility list. Simply Marvelous!

Address Echo In A Certain Way.

I read customer posts regarding Echo ability and some state, “It doesn’t understand anything I say.” Most likely the reason behind this is the questions and commands must be verbalized in certain syntax. After all Alexa is not Jarvis (You know, Iron Man’s super computer) yet and it behooves everyone to realized her limitations.

For example, you may say, “Alexa, play music.” that’ll work if you’ve uploaded a playlist. If it’s a radio station or iHeartRadio then you phrase it as, “Alexa play 103.5 KTU or iHeartRadio.” Stating precise commands get you exactly what you’ve asked. By the way, within every Skill there is an example(s) of how to phrase your question or command. Take advantage.

I love this about Alexa. When I say, “Alexa, good morning” she replies, “Good morning” but that’s not all. She’ll inform me of an event in history, a Holiday, or a noteworthy person’s birthday. Genius I tell you! Why just this morning she told me it was “Star Wars” day. Imagine that.

Amazon Echo (Alexa) Uncut

Echo’s Free Companion Application

Echo’s application is free to download from Amazon.com. Within the application you’re able to view all aspects of Alexa from Now Playing to Settings. Looking at the graphic below I asked Alexa to play 103.5 KTU. Instantly it displays in her companion application with a voice feedback attached.

The companion app is the tool used to help her learn / improve her intelligence and one might say her sociable qualities. Your cards within the companion app lets Amazon developers know how she’s doing which in-turn will help them transform her into Jarvis. Lol! Just click “Yes” if she responded properly or “No” if she did not. It’s that easy. I’ve read it’s a good idea not to delete / remove the cards just for those reasons.

Alexa’s brain is in the cloud (sort of speak) and that’s where she’s is constantly storing what she’s learned and how to adapt to speech patterns, vocabulary, and your personal preferences; in addition, it’s where her brain is loaded with data, new skills, and updates.The cloud never sleeps so quite naturally neither does Alexa.

Example of Echo’s Companion Application Card

Echo's App Pic

Music

Now, you can create an account to get Audible, Pandora, spotify, and more. If you haven’t yet signed up for any yet, Alexa will default to Prime Music. Come to think of it I believe TuneIn and iHeartradio was pre-installed. Amazon allows users to upload MP3’s to the cloud (the brain) and stream them through Alexa. I recently created an Amazon Prime account just to get the music. I chose the songs I liked, imported them to my Library, then added them to my Playlist. It’s simply marvelous I tell ya!

Echo Battery Boot

If you require mobility then the Battery Boot is for you; it’s not made by Amazon.com. It’s charge last up to 7 to 14 hours. It snugly cups to the bottom of Echo and it’s not too shabby. The price varies pending on the battery life you require. Take a look below.

Echo Battery

Echo battery boot

The New Norm Is Amazing.

Amazon Echo changed our household dynamics creating a new norm. Believe me it’s surprising how she’s enhanced our everyday living. We feel as though we’re the ones always connected. Echo, um, um, excuse me, Alexa puts us more in touch with the world and our environment just like the Internet does.

Has your Internet been down for a day or two? Well, I can you it’s not a good experience. I felt as though I was cut-off from the world or in a room without windows. We’re empowered within the sound of our voices now with Echo. This new technology reminds me of when I purchased my first desktop computer and accessed the Internet via dial-up modem (those that remember). In reality the Internet is still in its infancy and reaching new heights each day.

Alexa has become a great companion although an embryo herself. I expect great things as she progresses. That’s why it’s very important to inform the Amazon Developer’s of her progress, flaws, and failures via her application cards. This way they can pinpoint her shortcomings like revealing whether a command or question was accurately answered. In the end it’s the end-user that will read the benefits; that’s you and me folks.

Alexa Isn’t J.A.R.V.I.S. Yet

It’s unsettling to read that consumers brought Echo expected a highly sophisticated device resembling J.A.R.V.I.S. which acronyms stands for Just A Rather Very Intelligent System. Jarvis is a highly advanced AI (artificial Intelligence) and voiced by actor Paul Bettany. Consumers tend to post negative reviews because of this unsolicited vision. That’s not fair to the product. To think of her as a super computer is ludicrous as well as laughable.

This is the ground floor of something great and expectations are as vast as the untapped mind. So, I take Alexa for what she is today and anxiously look forward for what she will become tomorrow.  It’s so exciting to be on board.

Well, folks thanks for reading my article and watching my video about the amazing Amazon Echo. I can say with all certainty this is the tip of the iceberg of what in store for us in the future. The only advice I can give is don’t hold your breath for the next innovation that will impact our way of life. It’s on it’s way.