Introducing Amazon Echo

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Earlier this month, I got my new Echo from Amazon. What exactly is an Amazon Echo? Basically, it’s a little Wi-Fi connected speaker that you place in your home. It has eight directional microphones in a ring around the top, and it’s constantly listening–just like the NSA! When it hears you say a wake word (“Alexa”), it starts listening for commands. With only your voice, you can tell it to do all kinds of things, and get all kinds of information.

For example, ask about the weather, and you get a detailed weather report for your current location. Ask about news and you get a flash briefing from NPR. You can even tell it to play a song, and it’ll pull the song from Amazon Prime music and play it with surprisingly decent sound quality. Amazon is constantly adding new capabilities, and integrates with services like If This Then That to interface with all kinds of different websites.

One of the most exciting things about the Echo, though, is that it integrates with Smartthings, Hue, and several other home automation platforms. You can give it commands like “turn off the lights”, and it obeys. This is my original home automation dream finally realized; turning off the lights by yelling at the ceiling!

I’ve been using the Echo for about a week now, and I’m surprised by how useful it remains. I’ll be doing a whole series of posts and videos about the Echo and how you can use it for your own home automation system, so stay tuned.

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