What if you could tell the lights in your bedroom to turn off at your command? Or order your TV to play the latest episode of your favorite crime series? What if you could do all these and more without tinkering a remote or standing up from the couch or bed? What if we told you can do all of those things and more with the Amazon Alexa app?
Many of us dream about living in a smart home. We may still be years or decades before we can even see a fully automated residence, but changes are happening right before our eyes. This dream is actually closer to becoming reality today than most of us realize, thanks to innovations like Amazon Echo and Amazon Alexa.
What is Amazon Alexa?
To make the long story short, the Amazon Alexa app is Amazon’s equivalent of Siri. She’s the voice-activated assistant you’ll meet once you get Amazon Echo. Echo and Alexa combine to make a tube-shaped home assistant that helps you perform a number of tasks via voice commands. This foot-tall cylinder may seem like a glorified speaker, but it’s actually more than that.
Because the Echo is built with speaker holes, it can pick up voice commands to play songs, skip tracks, call an Uber, or even order pizza. Incredibly handy to say the least.
With that, it isn’t surprising that this device is slowly invading homes everywhere. Reports are estimating that as much as 3 million Echos have been sold since 2014, an undeniable proof that a lot of us probably have that dream of living in a house like that of The Jetsons.
How Does Alexa Work?
One thing that makes Amazon Echo so appealing to users is its ability to promptly interact with questions or commands. While many argue that she’s a far cry from the smooth and life-like Siri, the Amazon Alexa app still impresses with the fact that she’s very easy to interact with.
This incredible feat is largely a credit to Amazon building a natural language processing system and putting seven very sensitive microphones in the Echo. So when you say the magic word (e.g. “Alexa” or “Echo”), the microphone takes note of everything you say next and forwards the info to Amazon’s cloud computers for a quick analysis. Whether you asked a question or gave a command, the response will then come forth as a female voice answering your question.
What Can Alexa Do?
In recent updates, the number of skills or tasks that the Echo can perform has grown to more than 500. This ability gives the device the potential to have a positive impact in a busy home. While that seems to be a big number, though, most of those functions are quite gimmicky and not that relevant to every household.
Nevertheless, this doesn’t take away the fact that the Amazon Alexa app can perform really neat stuff like controlling the thermostat, turning on the lights, or playing music. Smart home companies are coming up with more automated fixtures that can be controlled via mobile apps. So, the tasks that Alexa and the Echo can do could easily multiply in the next couple of years.
For now, Alexa’s function may still be limited to actions like accessing information for your Capital One credit card, ordering pizza from Domino’s, or locking August smart locks. Alexa can also read to you news from The Wall Street Journal, CNN, or Bloomberg, hail you an Uber, and read you daily inspirational quotes.
Should I Get One?
If you’re someone who cares a lot about a whole new level of convenience, then the Echo may be right for you. Sure, you can turn on light switches via mobile apps, but it’s not as easy or fun as telling Alexa to do it. Imagine you just got home after doing grocery shopping. With both hands busy holding on to so many grocery bags, you say “Alexa, turn on the lights” and the lights in your apartment come on immediately. Now, how convenient would that be!
Besides convenience, you might want to get this device if you’re someone who needs to be constantly up-to-date with the latest happenings and you find it tedious reading news off your smartphone. With the Echo, you can simply ask Alexa about the news and she’ll read them to you while you’re busy eating breakfast.
Up to this day, we’re amazed at how much we can do by talking to a foot-tall device and a voice assistant. While these technologies could be a great help at the start and end of the day, they still have much growing to do before households could start depending on them for good.