I love you Alexa!
Last year, I discovered Amazon Echo, an amazing product launched by Amazon. It is a voice-controlled device that is connected and can perform various operations for you like telling the weather forecast, playing your favorite playlist on Spotify (or other services), book an Uber transfer or even a pizza!
The beauty of this product is the use of natural language. You just speak as it were a real person and it answers or actually SHE answers. Alexa is name of the lady who speaks and that you have to invoke for any actions to take place. The following video is a very good introduction about Echo’s capabilities.
Amazon Echo Dot ad
The Amazon Echo family
There are different flavors of the Amazon echo:
Amazon Echo: the first one that was released, an 360° omni-directional speaker that can be used as Bluetooth speaker to stream sounds from a smartphone
Amazon Echo Tap: This is the portable version of echo with “up to 9 hours of continuous playback”
Amazon Echo Dot: a small unit with speakers but better to be used along with a stereo system connected either with a jack connector or via bluetooth.
and a new one that Amazon has just released: Amazon Echo Show with a screen and a camera. I am looking forward to getting one of those, it looks so awesome and powerful.
An App world
Echo is able to use different apps that are called Skills or Alexa Skills.The Skills are free of charge and you can enable them from the mobile App (available on Android, iOS or Amazon Fire) or the Alexa website alexa.amazon.com.
Skills are free of charge but for billable services like Spotify, Uber and many others, you will have to link the skills to your application accounts i.e. enter your application credentials from the Alexa App or website.
All requests towards your favorite service will be “proxified” by the Alexa skill service.
Obviously, with Amazon, you could expect that everything is well documented for on-boarding developers and have them offerings new skills. This will be addressed in a later post.
Voice-recognition seems to become more and more popular as the big players have all invested on that technology.
If my memory serves me well, Apple was the first to come up with a user friendly solution on iOS devices in 2011: Siri.
Microsoft Cortana: I have never tested it so far so can’t judge. It was introduced on Windows 8.1 and now available on different products (Windows Mobile, Windows 10…). Nevertheless, until now, there was no standalone device. Microsoft announced this week the release of the Invoke in Fall 2017, an Echo-like device designed together with Harman-Kardon. Invoke should support Skype calls too.
Google Home: Google unveiled its voice assistant standalone device at the Google I/O 2016 developer conference. It is a beautifully design product that embeds Google Assistant. This last is a good voice recognition solution that I use on my Android phone to spell text messages when driving or asking questions to Google. Feedback from friends is very positive.
With Alexa and Amazon Echo, we have a great example of Amazon being the most customer-centric company in the world.
I love my Echo Dot. It is very natural to use it, even for a non native English speaker like me. It helps to get things done without the need to go on a smartphone, tablet or computer. You have an idea when shaving in the bathroom, ask Alexa to add it to your todo list. While cooking in the kitchen, ask Alexa to play your favorite playlist on Spotify…
The first week I got it, my wife was joking and told me she started to be jealous because I was speaking more often with Alexa than with her.
The potential for those devices is huge and I am looking forward to seeing the next innovations in that domain. Amazon seems to be in the driving seat at the moment in terms of market adoption with more than 8 millions unit sold so far.
I believe that technology should also help to make IoT more user friendly and is likely to boost that market. No complex configuration or scenario to create with different tools, just ask Alexa and it will happen.
I am also convinced about the huge potential on the Enterprise market and I will touch based on that one in a later post. Stay tuned!