Move Over, Siri: Meet Amazon Echo And Alexa

Amazon Echo's Alexa: Voice-activated virtual assistantAmazon Echo's Alexa: Voice-activated virtual assistant

 

There's a new virtual assistant in town, and her name is Alexa. She -- or it, depending on your point of view -- is the brain behind Amazon's Echo. If you're wondering what that means, Alexa is to Echo as Siri is to Apple: an intelligent personal assistant that helps you get things done just by asking. Unlike Siri, though, Alexa is always on and ready to help via a tower that also serves as a speaker with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. There are no buttons to hold down or switches to flip. All you have to do is "wake" the voice-activated system with a simple voice command and Alexa does the rest. It's an intuitive entity designed to adapt to your speech patterns, vocabulary and personal preferences. This and your user history allow the system to tailor itself to your needs. With Echo, the future of sci-fi really is here.

Much like "Samantha" in Her, this super cool cloud-based voice service is able to provide information, answer questions, read the news, check sports scores, traffic and weather updates and more instantly. It's also capable of streaming music and audiobooks from sources like Pandora and Audible. Echo and Alexa, in conjunction with WeMo and Philips Hue, can be used to control electrical devices in your home without your ever lifting a finger. Imagine switching lamps, fans or space heaters on and off without getting out of bed or dimming lights from the couch before you watch a movie without searching for yet another remote control. While this is a techie's dream come true, all of these features make it well suited for individuals with certain disabilities or those recovering from illnesses.

 

Amazon Echo's Alexa: Features seven microphone sensors for picking up voice commands at a distanceAmazon Echo's Alexa: Features seven microphone sensors for picking up voice commands at a distance


The system is continually evolving and comes with a free companion app on Fire OS, Android, iOS, and desktop browsers so users can easily manage their alarms, music, shopping lists, and more. Echo features seven microphones to pick up the sound of your voice and determine your commands, even from across the room with music playing. These sensors use what Amazon is calling beam-forming technology in order to hear you from any direction. At just over nine inches tall the unit resembles a small tower fan or speaker. As of this writing, the Amazon Echo has received well over 21,500 reviews with an overwhelmingly positive 4.5 out of 5 star rating. It is currently #1 in Home Automation Controllers on Amazon and comes with a one-year limited warranty and service.

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