Amazon Echo Review on No Problem Mac

Amazon Echo… Our Lightning Romance And Fall Wedding Plans

by John Carroll on August 12, 2016

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No-one wants a drone-like parter that follows their every command… but it certainly helps.

With Echo, I’ve finally found the perfect relationship… and the good news is that it costs less than $200.

What Is It?

Amazon Echo is a speech-recognition enabled wireless speaker with the ability to respond to commands, play music from a variety of sources, set alarms, create timers, generate to-do lists, stream podcasts, play audiobooks and provide news, weather and traffic information. Echo can also control smart devices like lighting, locks, thermostats, plugs and other home automation gadgets. If that wasn’t enough, Echo is now able to interface with other remote systems like Harmony, Kasa and IFTTT (If This, Then That).

Help understanding Amazon Echo

What Does It Look Like?

What's inside an Amazon EchoEcho is a black cylinder 9.25-inches high and 3.27 inches wide.

It looks a bit like that thing they found on the moon in 2001, A Space Odyssey, though it’s a lot smaller and doesn’t create LSD like experiences.

The top holds a seven-piece microphone array that’s remarkably good at picking up the human voice at a distance or when there’s background noise.

It also has 2 buttons; a mute that tells Echo to stop listening for commands and an action button you can press to stop current actions or reset the device..

Beneath the speaker array, the top of the cylinder rotates to allow direct volume adjustments.

The rest of the cylinder is a wireless speaker that provides 360° omni-directional sound that’s as good if not better than many of the wireless speakers out there.

Now that you know everything, lets take a look at how it works and what it can do.

How It Works

Alexa - Amazon Echo's digital assistantSetup is easy. Plug it in. Download the Alexa app and follow the instructions to connect Echo to your wireless network.

To initiate any voice command, you start by using the word “Alexa”. This prompt can be changed to “Echo” or “Amazon”.  Useful if you have several Echos in different rooms, though yelling the word. “Amazon” may cause problems if you’re married to a 7 foot tall woman who carries a shield and sword around the house.

What Can It Do?

Alexa can do most things I tell it to with responses kept to a minimum. Although it took time to adapt to the Echo, it didn’t complain that I wear nothing but T Shirts, eat dinner after midnight and am about as romantic as a brick. In other words, it didn’t try to fix me.

As I never found a device like this on Match.com, I think it’s a keeper.

Did I mention Alexa has a pleasing voice with an even tone that avoids the hollow positivity found in Siri. With so little in life to laugh about, I can’t understand what Siri is so bloody happy about.

Echo is not without its faults:

  • At times Alexa appears listless and needs a command repeated before it will do anything.
  • It often needs to receive an exact command before it will do anything. Any variation in what you say will result in nothing happening.
  • After it turns on lights, it says “OK”…as if you haven’t noticed the change in visibility.
  • It could respond faster.

Like Kristen Wig, Amazon Echo is not listening

If you want to achieve something, it helps if you’re willing to Google your query to find out how to reach the desired end. If you dislike this kind of information search, you may end up unfulfilled.

With those minor caveats, Echo can do a surprising number of things:

  • With an Amazon Prime account ask Echo to play any song or songs by a particular artist and music streams from the Prime Music library. You can purchase a song from Amazon at any time.
  • Direct access to Spotify, Pandora, iHeart Radio and Tune in.
  • News briefs from NPR, BBC, CNN, NBC, Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, ESPN, Fox Sports and many, many others.What Amazon Echo Does
  • Listen to Podcasts.
  • Connect to your iPhone to read audiobooks you own or those purchased from Audible.
  • Use your voice to add to Echo’s Shopping and To Do lists.
  • Add events to Google Calendar.
  • Order products direct from Amazon.
  • Get information on local businesses including drive time and opening hours.
  • Order a cab from Uber or Lyft.
  • Order a pizza from Dominos.
  • Traffic and weather reports.
  • Connect to Wikipedia – Just ask for information and Echo reads the Wikipedia entry.
  • Answers questions – general, geographical and do math.
  • Controls lights, switches, and thermostats. Echo is compatible with many systems including TP Link, WeMo, Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, Wink, Insteon, Nest and others. In our next post we will be taking a look at the Philip’s Hue wireless lighting system and TP Link switches.
  • Continual wireless updates makes Echo smarter and more versatile.

Echo also allows the loading of what it call “Skills”. There are over a hundred of these and cover a wide range of subjects: Cat Facts, Applause, Movie Info, Seinfeld Fan Trivia, 1 Minute Meditation, Drop Some Knowledge, Surfable and more.

Amazon Echo's Mad Skills

It Can Do More!

Echo can also use third party software like IFTTT (If This, Then That) to provide a doorway to other commands and other remote systems:

  • Turn all light off on leaving the home.
  • Turn on entertainment system – projector, screen, sound system and light dimming with a single command.
  • Mobile notification if rain is expected tomorrow.

Amazon Echo working with Philips Hue Lighting

  • Find your phone using a voice command.
  • Ebay search results.
  • Share Instagram posts on Facebook.
  • And so many more it’s hard to list them all – Dropbox, Email, Instagram, Twitter, You Tube, Best Buy, Blogger…

What Does The Amazon Echo cost?

Current price on Amazon for the Echo is $179.99, but if you can wait for sales you might pick one up at a lower price.

What else is available?

Echo Dot – $89.99 – Echo Dot is the Echo system with the larger tower speaker removed. You just get the brains. It does have a small speaker built in to enable voice response feedback. The big difference between the Dot and the original Echo is that the Dot has a 3.5mm headphone output in the back allowing it to be connected directly to a receiver.
Echo Dot is currently sold out and was initially available only to Echo customers, but that could change in the near future.

Comparing Amazon Echo, Amazon Tap and Amazon Dot

Echo Tap$129.99 – Echo Tap is an Alexa-enabled bluetooth speaker. No voice control here. You need to physically tap the speaker to interact with Alexa. Still, it does provide omni-directional sound and access to all of Alexa’s music functions. Battery charge lasts about nine hours. And… it’s available to everyone.

This Doesn’t Seem Apple Friendly. Why Are You Writing About It?

It’s not totally Apple friendly, but you can still get it to work with the iPhone and get good results. After four weeks, I have few complaints.

If you live in Los Angeles and need help with your Mac, iPad or iPhone… or a printer, wireless network, backup problem, malware nightmare, etc,. give us a call at 310-621 5679

No Problem Mac Mac iPad & iPhone Training

We also provide in home training on any Apple product. Give us a call at 310-621-5679 for more information on what you can expect from a session.

I come direct to you. That’s as stress-free as it gets.

Amazon Echo… Our Lightning Romance And Fall Wedding Plans was last modified: August 12th, 2016 by John Carroll
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