Way back in December I answered an unsolicited invite to purchase the new Amazon Echo for just $99 (well down from the future list price of $199). Why not? It seemed kinda cool in a Star Trek talking computer kind of way.
My new Echo arrived just yesterday, 6 months later. Out of the well designed box it took all of 2 minutes to set up — download the app to my iPhone, connect to wi-fi and I was up and running. Now, I am an Apple girl at heart. But I do love my Kindle. And I despise Siri whom I have used less than a handful of times in several years.
Alexa (the voice of Echo) on the other hand is pleasant and helpful and really does sound like the computer from Star Trek. Only she is not that smart just yet. However, for my simple needs, so far I like her. She tells me the time. She tells me the weather. She keeps a grocery list for me that shows up on my iPhone. She plays my local NPR station. She gives me news updates and answers silly fact-based questions with ease. No pushing of buttons, no need to stand close, no need to repeat myself 18 times. I just ask in my normal voice from anywhere in my large loft-like apartment, “Alexa, what time is it?” Other things Alexa can do with the drop of a question: Play music from Amazon Prime, Pandora and iHeartRadio play lists. Turn off and on lights using select connected technology. Set a timer or alarm. Buys things from Amazon (of course!). Tell you what’s on your Google calendar (if you have one). And she vows to get smarter as time goes on.
Echo as an object is basically a speaker. The technology lives in the cloud. So as Amazon adds more partnerships and features, Alexa will be come even more helpful. Is she the be all and end all. No. But I’m using her so that’s a good sign. I only wish I could change her name from “Alexa” to “Computer”. Then I’d really feel like I was living in an episode of Star Trek!