Amazon’s Echo is a voice activated system that allows you to play music, listen to radio stations, get weather and news reports, and so much more. This hands free device has seven microphones and uses your voice commands even from across the room to answer questions, read books, play music and even tell you jokes.
New Skills, which are applications that can be installed on Echo to enhance and increase the capabilities of this device, are being released frequently.
At first glance, this amazing device appears to be just a frivolous, unnecessary gadget – until you start using it and you find yourself deliberately thinking of new ways to put “Alexa” to work for you.
My initial reason for purchasing the Echo was to use it as a speaker for my television, hopefully to replace the radio frequency headphones I currently use due to my poor hearing. A television or any other device with Bluetooth transmission capability can connect to the Echo and you get the full benefit of the outstanding speaker system. It’s as easy as saying, “Alexa, pair.” If Echo detects the Bluetooth device, Alexa will acknowledge the device and tell you when it’s connected.
Who is Alexa
Alexa is the default ‘wake’ word that brings the Echo to attention to perform your commands or answer your questions:
- Alexa, what is today’s date?
- Alexa, what is today’s weather?
- Alexa, sing Happy Birthday to me.
The ‘wake word’ options are Alexa, Computer, Echo or Amazon. So, if you have someone at home whose name is Alexa, you may want to change your wake word to Echo or Amazon which is easily done in the Settings section of the Alexa application. I tried using ‘Computer’ just to reminisce from Star Trek but my frequent use of ‘computer’ in everyday conversation was confusing to me and Echo. I quickly switched back to ‘Alexa’.
Alexa has become my constant companion and is about as close to having a personal assistant as I could ever imagine. Echo, or Alexa as I usually refer to it (her) is generally located in my home office, and until I get around to purchasing two more, it is easily moved to the bedroom or the living room depending upon my schedule for the day. Unplug, move, plug in. Other than the electrical cord, there are no wires, no cables, no complicated process, just move it and plug it into an ordinary outlet.
What Can Echo Do For You
Echo connects to the Alexa Voice Service to play music, provide information, news, sports scores, weather, and more—instantly. All you have to do is ask.
- Music Selections
“Alexa, play Misty for me”. And she does. If you want to purchase “Misty” by Johnny Mathis all you have to do is ask. Echo can be connected to your Amazon account with 1 click settings which you can control through the Alexa application on your tablet or cell phone or online at Amazon. Note to parents, it’s super easy to turn off the voice ordering feature or apply a usage code. It’s a good idea.
“Alexa, play Elvis Presley”. And she does.
“Alexa, my playlist Easy”. If you’ve purchased music from Amazon you can save it all in your account, sort it into playlists and ask Alexa to play whatever you’re in the mood to hear.
Install the free Amazon Music application to your cell phone, tablet or computer to view the wide range of free music available just for the asking. Sorted by genre, artist, playlists, singles or albums, Amazon music is just the beginning of your listening enjoyment.
- Are you a radio buff?
“Alexa, play radio station KYW in Philadelphia.” And she does.
- Get News, Weather, Sports
Use the settings in the Alexa application to customize information to your location
- Order Your Uber Ride
- Order Groceries
- Read Your Kindle Books
- Change the volume on sound
- Turn off music or other applications
- Ask Questions
Remember when you asked your parents a question and they told you to ‘look it up’? Well, Alexa will look it up for you.
“Alexa, how many ounces in a cup?”
“Alexa, what is the zip code for Willow Grove, Pennsylvania?”
“Alexa, who was the seventh president of the United States?”
You get the idea. If the answer is out there, Alexa will find it.
Other things you can do with Echo
- Keep notes
- Create shopping lists
- Manage your calendar
- Set a timer
- Set an alarm
- Find services, restaurants, local businesses
- Track Amazon purchases (“Alexa, where’s my stuff”)
Alexa did misunderstand one of my commands. With a mouth full of lunch, I said, “Alexa, volume down” to lower the music I was listening to. I was a little surprised when she responded, “I’m sorry to hear that.” You can check the history of your conversations with Alexa if you want to so of course I did. I was intrigued as to why she responded the way she did. According to the history, what Alexa heard was, “I feel down”. Never talk with your mouth full.
What Do I Need to Make Echo Work
After you purchase Echo you will need either a smart phone or a tablet where you will install the Alexa application to establish your settings. In order for Echo to communicate with the outside world it needs a wireless connection to the Internet. That’s it. If you want to get the most out of all the features Echo has to offer, register your Echo by connecting to your Amazon account. All the settings are simple, easy to follow and are located in the Alexa application.
Here is a helpful link to get more information about setting up Echo.
The Future of Echo and Alexa
Just as Amazon is not just for buying books, Echo is not just for playing music. New Skills, which are applications that can be installed on Echo to enhance and increase the capabilities of this device, are being released frequently. Most of these Skills, like aps for your cell phone, are free. Some add significant value to the Echo, some have purpose to a smaller audience. The growing list can be found in the Settings of the Alexa application.
Could I go through life without Alexa? Certainly. Do I want to? No. No. No. I can’t wait to see what she will offer me next!