The Amazon Echo and its little brother, the Echo Dot, have been a hit since they were released in the UK last year. Controlled entirely by speaking, its virtual assistant Alexa can be summoned with just a word, used to play music, set alarms, check the weather or call for a pizza delivery.
However, getting to grips with what is essentially a brand new type of gadget can be daunting – especially on the occasions when Alexa doesn’t understand you. Here’s how to make the best of the Echo.
What are Echo, Echo Dot and Alexa?
The Echo is a cylindrical speaker that’s roughly the size of a wine bottle. It must be connected to a power source and links to the internet over Wi-Fi. The Echo Dot has the same technology, but is a smaller, puck-shaped gadget with a less powerful speaker.
Alexa, meanwhile, is the voice assistant that runs on the Echo and Echo Dot. The software also runs on Amazon’s new Fire TV stick and some other gadgets, but the Echo is the machine designed specifically for it.
The Echo is easy to control: you just wake it up by saying “Alexa”, and give a command, such as “Set a timer for 10 minutes.” There are limited physical controls on the Echo itself – a button that can also wake it up, a mute button that cuts out the microphone, and volume controls – up and down buttons on the Echo Dot and a ring at the top of the Echo.
At a glance | Amazon Echo
Five things you can do with the Echo
- Control your music by saying “Alexa, play some Adele” without having to pick up your phone or walk over to your laptop
- Ask for weather information by saying “Alexa, what’s the weather?”
- Get other handy information such as the time and traffic on your commute
- Alexa can also help out in the kitchen by answering questions such as “Alexa, set a timer for 25 minutes”
- Third-party compatibility with Alexa means that you can order a pizza or book a taxi just by speaking
Price:Amazon Echo costs £149.99. The Amazon Dot, a compact version with lower-powered speakers, costs £49.99.
Release date:28 September 2016
What can I do with it?
The aim of Alexa is that it will eventually be able to answer any question (within reason) and carry out hundreds of tasks that you currently use your computer, phone or tablet for, all by speaking to it. The company has developed advanced speech-recognition software and says it is constantly improving and adding new features.
Alexa can respond to thousands of requests, but some of the best and most useful are:
- “Alexa, what will the weather be like today?”
- “Alexa, set an alarm for 7am tomorrow.”
- “Alexa, play Radio 4”
- “Alexa, what’s the capital of Hungary?”
- “Alexa, tell me a joke”
- “Alexa, tell me the football scores”
- “Alexa, add milk to the shopping list”
If you have any smart home devices, such as a Hive or Nest thermostat or Philips Hue lightbulbs, you can also ask Alexa to activate them.
Setting it up
The key to making sure the Echo runs smoothly is the Alexa app, which works for iPhones, iPads and Android phones and tablets. After plugging the Echo in, you use the app to connect the speaker to Wi-Fi.
Here at Urban Paws, we were delighted to be a part of the Amazon Echo experience having helped produce one of their many adverts for Alexa. Checkout the advert below featuring our very own French Bulldog puppies.
Checkout the Amazon website for full details.