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What You need to Know About the Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo is the latest virtual assistant device, which is on the same lines as Microsoft's Cortana, Google Now, or Apple's Siri. This Internet connected device uses Amazon's proprietary platform named Alexa, which will play you music, answer certain queries by searching Wikipedia online, compile your shopping list, and much more. Well, the much more is actually the potential of the device, which has not yet fully blossomed, but it could in the near future since it operates through the cloud.

Looks and Sound Quality

While Apple's Siri is loaded on the iPhone, Alexa comes to you as a sleek black cylinder, about the size of a Pringle’s can. The bottom half houses 360-degree surround speaker, and top has a cool circular light with volume controls. The quality of sound is stellar, but it deteriorates quickly at high volumes.

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The sensitivity of the microphone is decent, as Echo can hear you from the next room if you raise your voice. However, if there is a background noise of a running dishwasher and/or a refrigerator, you might have to yell Alexa a couple of times before you receive a response.

Splendid on Voice Recognition Poor on Context

There does not seem to be any problem with the voice recognition of Amazon Echo, since it responds to human speech quite well. On this basis, Alexa is quick to respond to your voice but how much can you expect it to do is the main question? Well, if you consider this device to be a smart robot then you are expecting too much.

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However, it can easily source your song request from your Amazon collection or tune into iHeartRadio, Pandora, iTunes, or Amazon Prime. Simple commands like "Alexa louder" and you will find the volume going up, or you can also keep adding items to your shopping list, or ask the Alexa advice about the weather.

However, Alexa is not so adept on picking on the context of your commands, and its learning capabilities are a bit crippled since it does not have access to your calendar, contacts, emails, or other information about you.

Smart Home Connectivity

Amazon Echo has the capacity to connect to other Bluetooth devices in your home, which means you can control these devices through Alexa. According to Amazon, Echo can constantly learn and improve, and it can become your portal to a fully connected home. Potentially, you can ask Alexa to turn on your Xbox, the dishwasher in the kitchen, or ask if your front door is locked.

Hacking "Alexa"

As with all devices, certain hacks enable you to do more with the device. The key to doing more with Echo lies in API hacks. Some people have been successful in calling their phone, turning on and off lights, and controlling a web-enabled thermostat. This shows that there is a plenitude of possibilities in polling API and persuading Echo to perform arbitrary actions. Nevertheless, since its brain is in the cloud, there is a limit to what you can access and hack.

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