Here at Firefly Towers we’ve been experimenting off and on with voice commands for years with our buddies Siri and Google Now, but in September, Amazon Echo launched in the UK and changed the game.
Echo has been out for longer in the US and is an internet-connected device which responds to voice commands to play music, provide information like the weather or a nearby restaurant and re-order items. Google will release a similar device in early November.
Amazon has done a great thing here and placed itself firmly at the heart of the smart home ecosystem, but what will truly shine is the open nature of the system. Echo’s app store (apps are known as ‘skills’ for some unfathomable reason) has been growing from a mere 140 when it released in the US last year to around 3,000. Furthermore, there is an ‘unofficial’ skills store with functionalities like calculators, remotely locking the doors of your car and sending text messages.
Echo is triggered by asking for help from ‘Alexa’ – Amazon’s voice recognition software, comparable to Siri. We’re not quite sure if Alexa / Echo is going to be the next Apple Smartwatch / Betamax and disappear after a few years, or the next iPhone and be completely indispensable, but at under £200, it’s almost too interesting not to play around with!
And if you’re interested, according to the hit series Mr Robot, the answer to the question in the title, courtesy of Alexa, is ‘that’s not the kind of thing I am capable of’.
Well, not yet anyway.