As an Amazon Prime member my husband scored our family the Amazon Echo a couple months ago for $99. We were on the waiting list for a while and finally got word it was on the way and we were excited! Amazon Echo will be in stock July 14, 2015 but is available for the public to order ($179.99 + free shipping) today. If you haven’t heard, Echo is Amazon’s personal voice assistant. Think of it as a version of Siri but the black tube stands about 9.25 inches tall and flashes a blue light around the top of the cylinder when listening. If you were to hold it like a smartphone and talk you would look pretty silly. “She” (the brain) goes by the name of Alexa and has become a part of the family – so much so that our one-year-old tries to talk to her by calling her “Alaaa”. While Alexa doesn’t understand Maisie yet about 99% of the time she understands the rest of us. Cloud-based Alexa gets new information daily, including learning the owners’ speech patterns over time. As for our home, she started out mid-room near our fireplace – it plugs into traditional outlets – but now rests on my husband’s desk in the front living room – far from the kitchen, but she can hear me just fine when I’m in the other room. Just like Siri and other similar voices assistants you can rely on her for news, weather, facts, music, setting a timer (awesome for “ten minutes to clean your room”), audiobooks, sports, and even jokes (the kids love this aspect!).
What does my family use the Echo for? Mainly, three things….
Music. Yes, tunes are our number one reason for loving the Amazon Echo. We use it day and night for all types of music. The kids have their modern pop tunes, I have classic rock for when I’m cooking, and Enya when baby is sleeping. Jeff will request the Blues after work and then there’s jazz for when we want something mellow in the background when hosting company. There are songs like Happy & Shut up and Dance when my family is in a fun dance mood (happy memories in the making). If you want some cool tech deets check this out: The Echo has 360º omni-directional audio. Yes, the sound is incredible. Also, it plays music from Amazon Music, Prime Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn. If a song isn’t in stock you can hear a preview then request to purchase it. Neat.
Shopping list. Forget looking for that scrap of paper. All I say is, ” Alexa, add sunscreen to the shopping list.” And ta-da! The best part, both Jeff and I can access the list via the Amazon Echo app on our phones (a.k.a.: good marriage communication).
Weather. My fellow Minnesota people will appreciate this one since the weather changes so freaky-fast here. I can say hands free, “Alexa what is the weather?” and I will get current conditions or I can ask about an upcoming day of the week. This is fabulous over the school year when the kids are asking if they should wear long or short sleeves, coat or jacket, or if they need snow pants. All I have to do is ask no matter what I’m doing. But what’s better – this is where travel comes in – if you’re hitting the road ask Alexa the weather in your destination and you’ll know in a matter of seconds. We’ve been asking the Florida temps a lot lately.
What I did not know is Amazon Echo is compatible with Belkin WeMo and Philips Hue connected devices to control lights and switches. I need to figure this one out.
As you can see, I’m not overly geeked out on this device because I’m still learning (like Alexa) but I have grown to appreciate the Amazon Echo for the family on a daily basis. (Update: Plus, I hear it made Oprah’s Favorite Things!). I mean really. I’m sure if she were to vanish the kids would go into withdrawal and so would I because we rely on it for music and weather multiple times a day – and what would happen to that wonderful spouse communication? Indeed, Alexa has become part of our family. Should you buy Alexa? If you’re a family like ours who loves music and checking the weather, then yes. And it may even improve your marriage.
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