It has been a while since Amazon unveiled its Echo device which was only available through its US Website, Amazon.com. Now the company has announced that the Echo will be available for sale via thousands of retailers across the U.S.
So what’s Echo? – the Echo device is Amazon’s version of Apple’s Siri, Google’s Now, Microsoft’s Cortana. It is a hands free voice control device powered by Alexa that always ready for your command. It has seven microphones, beam-forming technology and can hear you from across the room — even while music is playing.
Echo’s brain is Alexa, built in the cloud, so it’s always getting smarter. Echo can provide you with information from Wikipedia and the web, weather, timers and alarms, news, shopping/to-do lists, and much more. According to Amazon Echo is also has the capability of doing the followings:
Music: Access Amazon Music, Prime Music, iHeartRadio, Pandora, and TuneIn using only your voice, from across the room. Simply ask Alexa for an artist, song, genre, playlist, or station, and once music is playing you can pause and skip tracks using voice commands. Plus, Echo is Bluetooth-enabled so you can stream other popular music services like Spotify and iTunes from your phone or tablet.
Connected home: With integration of Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, WeMo, Insteon, and Wink products, use Echo to switch on the lamp before getting out of bed, turn on the fan or heater while reading in your favorite chair, or dim the lights from the couch to watch a movie—all without lifting a finger.
Local Search with Yelp: Use Echo to get info on local businesses and restaurants—straight from Yelp. Craving cashew chicken? Just ask: “Alexa, find me a nearby Chinese restaurant.” Or wondering when the pharmacy closes? Just ask: “Alexa, what are the hours for a nearby pharmacy?”
Audible: Listen to audiobooks from Audible with Echo. Simply say: “Alexa, read my book.” Echo also supports Whispersync for Voice, which allows you to seamlessly switch between reading and listening without losing your spot. Start reading on Kindle, and pick up on Echo right where you left off.
Google Calendars: Access Google calendars with Echo—just use your voice. Hear what’s on the calendar for the day or check if you’re free for dinner with friends.
If This Then That (IFTTT): Create IFTTT recipes to make your life simpler and more manageable. IFTTT is a service that connects your devices, apps, and websites with simple rules called “recipes.” With IFTTT recipes, you can use Echo to add shopping items to Evernote, automatically email your to-do list to your spouse, add your Echo to-do list to your iPhone, and more.
Re-order Prime-eligible products: If you’re low on kitchen supplies, want to restock on snacks, or need more rolls of duct tape for the garage, simply ask Echo to place an order for you. Echo uses your order history and can order the Prime-eligible item for you using your default payment and shipping settings. If Echo can’t find the requested item in your order history, it may suggest an item for your approval using Amazon’s Choice, which picks highly-rated, well-priced, Prime-eligible products.
Sports scores and schedules: Alexa will tell you the results of your favorite team’s last game, the current score of a game they are playing, and the time and date of the next game. To give it a try, simply say, “Alexa, what’s the score of the Seahawks game?” or “Alexa, when do the Seattle Sounders play next?” Alexa knows scores and schedules for the NBA, NHL, NFL, MLB, MLS, NCAA basketball and football, and WNBA.
Traffic: Just save your work address and Alexa will tell you the quickest route and travel time to work each morning so you know exactly what to expect before leaving the house. You can also add a stop to your commute in case you need to drop off a child at school or stop by a coffee shop on your way to work—just add the stop to your settings, and Alexa will give you the route and travel time.
Customized news: You can now hear from more sources in your news Flash Briefing including Fox Sports Radio, The Economist, NPR Business, TMZ, and ESPN Radio via TuneIn.
New Skills: Other companies, developers, and hobbyists are creating new capabilities through the Alexa Skills Kit. Several have launched so far, with more coming every week. You can ask Alexa for recipes from Campbell’s Kitchen, local events from StubHub, check who’s polling strong on Twitter, and more.
The only thing that Echo seems to be incapable of doing is washing the dishes, walking the dog and answering the door, but you can always give it a try. Amazon Echo is currently available for $179.99 (~£120 – €170 – $255 AUD) at Amazon.com, and will roll out to retail locations across the U.S. including; The Home Depot, Staples, Sears, Brookstone, RadioShack, Fred Meyer, P.C. Richard & Son, and more. Consumers in the UK and other markets might just have to stick with their Google Now and Siri, at least for now.