Friday (Gadgets) Review: Amazon Echo

The BaldMan won one of these in an office raffle. He sent me a message saying he’d won it, and I honestly had no idea what the heck it was. So, I did what any red-blooded adult sitting at a computer would do: I asked Mr. Google. And, as always, he was very helpful and sent me to the Amazon page for the thing. And I thought: Well, it’s a cute idea and probably will be interesting for a couple days, but who would buy something like this?

In case you also don’t know what it is, here is the link to the Echo:


It’s kind of like a combination music player, home control (with the right systems), and Siri/Hey, Google. It’s completely voice controlled. It can give you news updates, weather, traffic, sports scores, and all sorts of other information. It’s connected to Alexa, a cloud-based voice service. You just say “Alexa” and it starts listening. There is an app for your computer and you smartphone so you can see to-do and shopping lists, and control some of the other functions. It’s kind of an interesting idea.

But- how does it work? Actually, quite well. It has seven microphones around the top of the unit, and can hear you even with music playing fairly loudly. It hears from a reasonable distance away, as well. We’ve found that for some things, you do need to be fairly specific with your questions, but really, considering the amount of information out there on the Web, that’s not necessarily surprising. Alexa also knows a fair number of pretty bad jokes!

So, what do we use it for? We ask for jokes a lot. LOL It is probably going to replace the grocery list app we had been using, since you can be in the middle of cooking something, use the last bit of flour, and just say “Alexa, add flour to my shopping list.” And she does. I suspect it will avoid some of those “Oh, crap, I forgot I should have added flour to the shopping list” moments. I use it to check the time when I am not in a position to see the stove or microwave. Since I got my Fitbit, I don’t carry my phone all day here at the house, and I don’t wear a watch every day, either. Alexa always knows what time it is. We’ve also used it for timers. And, one nice thing about her, is that you can set multiple timers, something a lot of timer apps don’t do. It has turned out to be kind of useful, despite my first thought that it would be just another gadget that would get forgotten soon enough.

It does have some other features we haven’t played with yet, but so far, it seems to be at least useful for some things we do daily. I’m not sure I would have bought one without knowing how it would be, but it was rather a nice prize for an office raffle!

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