Earth Hour

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Amazon Echo: Speaker, Virtual Assistant, and Shopping Companion in One

The big news this weekend in the tech world was the announcement of Amazon on its website for its new product, the Echo.  


The Echo is a cylindrical device that is basically a speaker that could fill an entire room with music. Just say the magic word, "Alexa" and the device wakes up to provide you with weather report, play music from your Amazon music library, and yes, go shopping with you on Amazon.

There are seven microphones on top of the Echo and it uses beam-forming technology to pinpoint your voice and make sure it can hear you no matter where you are in a room. It has an enhanced background noise cancellation so it can follow your commands and requests even when it is playing music.

The device is always connected to Amazon’s cloud-based web servers where most of the processing of data occurs.  The more you use  the better it understands your speech pattern and the more adept it becomes in identifying and responding to your commands over time. Let's just hope it won't be as buggy as Siri which took some time to recognize my speech pattern,

Music can be streamed through either WiFi or Bluetooth.  That includes music from iTunes and even Spotify.

It also comes with a remote control with a built-in microphone, music playback and volume controls.  There is also a companion app for iOS and Android gadgets and desktop PCs so you can further personalize your Echo experience.  


Right now, the Echo is available for US$199 (roughly PhP8,900 at US$1=PhP44.5) and for a limited time, it is available to Prime Members at US$99.  Take note that getting the device is by invitation only and you may request it from the official site.  There's no word yet if it will be made available internationally but the way I look at it, Amazon must be testing first if they have a market for this and whether the Echo will work in the real world.  Maybe they were burned enough by the Fire Phone that they're being more cautious this time.

But being always on and with the capability to pick up one's voice where ever he is inside a room, will it be possible that someone could start listening to us 24/7 soon?  Maybe not as long as you don't have anyone in your household named "Alexa".


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