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Amazon Echo Unboxing - introducing personal voice assistant Alexa

Amazon Echo Unboxing - introducing personal voice assistant Alexa

Amazon Echo Unboxing - introducing personal voice assistant Alexa

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What Is It?

The Amazon Echo is an affordable personal assistant that takes the form of a sleek, round speaker that looks great in any room and turns your house into a smart home. Some of its features include the ability to play music (Amazon Prime Music, Pandora and Spotify), connectivity to smart home devices, shopping list tracking, take-out ordering, and even Uber hailing!

We found that the Echo is friendlier to operate than the Google Home, though some settings are somewhat unintuitive. As expected with all new technology, there are also a few kinks to be worked out – for example, the weather Skill provides timely local forecasts, but it doesn’t account for wind chill. Overall, the Amazon Echo gets a big thumbs up because it requires very little set up and most commands work right out-of-the-box.

With the Echo Dot starting at just $30, it appeared under many Christmas trees this year – so many, in fact, that the Alexa app reached the top of Apple’s App Store charts on the weekend of January 13th. Unsurprisingly, it also reached the top of the most popular apps list in the Google Play Store, which serves Android devices. If you’re still skeptical of the Voice Platform revolution, know that Google’s Home app also ranked in the top 10 downloads of the holiday season.

Why Is It Awesome?

The Echo and Alexa have real applications for use in your home, namely their ability to make it smarter. More than just a smart listener, the Echo can be customized to suit your home and lifestyle by loading a myriad of Skills. Skills for Alexa are akin to apps for smartphones. A simple voice command allows your Alexa to install new Skills, and settings for those Skills can be adjusted by voice command or from your smartphone through the Alexa app. With 30,000+ Skills available in the Alexa App Store, owners are spoiled for choice.

One big reason why the Echo is awesome is that it connects to a whole host of smart home devices. With simple voice commands, you can customize music selections for speakers in different rooms, dim and change the hue of LED lights, control smart door locks, operate home cameras, adjust smart thermostats, turn on/off sprinklers, start your car, select TV programs, initiate a Roomba vacuum, raise/lower blinds, speed up or slow down fans, and even set a coffeemaker brewing! Essentially, it can control anything that is plugged into a wall socket – In other words, it facilitates the Internet of Things (IoT) for your home.

See Also: THE INTERNET OF THINGS INFOGRAPHIC

Once the excitement of being able to turn lights on and off with your voice fades a little, you’ll quickly realize that Alexa’s greatest impact is that it actually changes your behaviour. You will probably listen to more music, start to dim your lights to certain levels, and see your whole family start contributing to shopping lists and calendars.

How Will It Change The World?

Amazon is launching an enormous product push that will make you see Alexa in a lot more places. This year, Alexa will be built into Windows laptops made by Acer, Asus, Lenovo and HP; the family of Echo devices will expand to include screens with the Echo Spot and Echo Show; and hundreds more IoT devices for smart homes will be made available for purchase on Amazon.

Now that our computers and devices are smart enough to understand our natural speech and can respond to our voice, the number of Skills available is bound to increase exponentially. Amazon intends for its voice platform to become a whole ecosystem similar to Apple’s App Store, but only time will tell if it will have the same impact. Undoubtedly, the ease of verbal shopping is meant to substantially boost Amazon’s transactions.

Alexa is a game changer when it comes to making your house smarter. – it’s really the first voice-activated operating system for your home. Alexa’s initial incarnation is small and practical, yet it’s laying the foundation to be the go-to smart personal assistant of the future. You can already check-in for a flight, and it might not be long before Alexa starts providing updates on your flight’s status or reminds you to pack days in advance. Instead of just informing you when it’s someone’s birthday, Alexa may scout for gifts in advance based on your friend’s preferences, letting you know about sales and availability. And, speaking of smarter: because Alexa is powered by Amazon’s artificial intelligence platform, it is bound to become more intuitive and nuanced over time.

Another exciting development revealed at CES 2018 is that Alexa will soon start appearing in our vehicles. Toyota and Lexus cars have confirmed upcoming Alexa integration in their infotainment systems. Likewise, Ford has announced that their Amazon partnership will include the ability to buy products, transfer destinations to the navigation system, and control smart home features while on the road. Modern BMW’s are also featuring some Alexa-controlled functions.

See Also: 10 trending tech terms you ought to know

Amazon has also rolled out Alexa-as-software via its Android Alexa app, enabling its voice command technology on Android phones without the need of an Echo. Putting Alexa on smartphones, including Apple devices later this year, could vastly expand the number of Alexa users.

The Alexa phenomenon is a great opportunity for marketers to ‘speak directly’ to customers. Adding a branded, custom Skill is the perfect blend between a personal concierge for your company and a customer service representative. Think of how it can set up reminders or shopping lists. Alexa may be the perfect tool to put micro moments in customers’ user journeys or to present preferred customer discounts. Don’t just take our word for it – Canadian financial companies like BMO, TD, Aviva, and Manulife have all jumped on the Alexa bandwagon, so it might be wise for your company to start experimenting with Alexa.

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