Amazon's Echo was released in the UK last week, introducing Amazon's Alexa voice assistant into homes across the UK, It's been available in the US for some time but Amazon was not releasing it into other markets for their own reasons. I had heard encouraging things about it from US and UK colleges, and Control4 had released a few drivers for it so when I was in Dallas two weeks ago I grabbed one for myself to put it through its paces in NZ and see if this was a product with potential or a gimmick and if Alexa could work just as well for us Kiwis.
Most iPhone users are familiar with Siri, which allows users to ask questions, have conversations, send text messages, make calls, play music, listen to the news headlines or latest weather reports. Amazon Echo will do all this and connect to other smart devices in your home or business, giving you voice control of such devices.
Echo is easy to set up using Amazon's Alexa app in a matter of minutes. Once setup, Alexa can be paired with numerous smart home devices and apps, giving you voice control of your home and lifestyle. Our 7 year old daughter has had great fun this weekend asking Alexa to play her favourite songs, telling her jokes, and asking what the weather will be.
So how will Voice Recognition integrate into our daily lives?
You wake up to find that Winter has come back to pay a last grasping visit, and the house is rather chilly. You ask Alexa to turn on the Heat Pump in the Kitchen to 23 Deg via your Control4 system before getting out of bed. You wander through to the Kitchen to make your morning coffee and ask Alexa to read you the news headlines. After being updated on the world's news you ask Alexa to play your favourite radio station. You head into the bathroom for a shower, asking Alexa to play the latest edition of your favourite podcast via the bathroom audio system. As you leave home to head to work, you ask Alexa for your travel time to check the traffic, then turn the heating down and your lights off as you lock the door.
Arriving home you look in the fridge wondering what to cook, so you ask Alexa or recipe inspiration based on a few ingredients in your fridge. Alexa sends you a recipe for dinner via the app and you start prepping dinner. Once dinner is on the over you ask Alexa to set a timer for when dinner is ready, while you set up the TV for the kids to watch their favourite DVD or TV channel. The possibilities with Alexa extend outside of the home, linking with your Uber account, Alexa will order an Uber for you. As voice recognition continues to develop, computers will start listening to us non-stop. It will soon become the norm that a conference room or wearable devices will listen to our conversations and understand what we need. The need to have information at our fingertips at anytime and wherever we are will drive the development of intelligent voice interfaces in all sectors of our lives.
I have an Amazon Echo setup in our Auckland showroom so it you want a demonstration of how voice recognition and automation can work together give me a call. 0800 021 711