Amazon Echo? What is that? It is possible that this is what you have thought when reading the title of the article. And it is not surprising, because it is a product that is not yet available in Spain. But don't worry, it won't take long to be. The Amazon Echo is a smart wireless speaker . Smart because it includes Amazon's Alexa personal assistant. A system that will allow us to manage the speaker with voice commands to ask some questions of general interest.
As we said, this device is not yet available in Spain. We could say that Alexa continues to learn our language. And to help her, Amazon has launched a beta program for some users to test the system using an Amazon Echo speaker. I have been fortunate to be one of those chosen and I have been testing the speaker and the personal assistant for a few days now. So I want to tell you how it works and what I think of both the Amazon Echo speaker and the Alexa assistant .
Amazon Echo Speaker
Although the main protagonist of this device cannot be seen, the Amazon Echo is worth taking a look. Although it is not the only one that has the personal assistant, it will be one of the main devices that will arrive with Alexa .
In my case, I am doing the test with the "normal" Amazon Echo, but there are two other models. We have the Amazon Echo Dot , a smaller version, and the Amazon Echo Plus , a larger and more powerful model.
The Amazon Echo is a speaker that is shaped like a vertical cylinder . The entire cylinder is covered with a kind of acoustic fabric, with the Amazon logo in the lower area of what we could call the front part.
Actually, the speaker is hard . The textile effect is only in sight and touch, do not think that it sinks, as it happens in other larger speakers. In fact, in America at least, the model I'm testing is just one of the available finishes.
As you can see in the image, we have different colored fabric finishes, in dark and light wood and a totally metallic finish . For all tastes and stays.
On the back of the speaker we only have a connector for power and an auxiliary input , which is covered with a small rubber cap.
The bottom of the speaker is also made of rubber , which prevents any small scratches on the surface of the furniture.
The only buttons on the Amazon Echo are located on the top of the speaker . We have a button to prevent Alexa from listening, one to increase and another to decrease the volume and a fourth button that invokes Alexa manually.
Between the speaker fabric and the top we have a ring of light that informs us of the status of Alexa . The dimensions of the Amazon Echo are 148 x 88 millimeters, with a weight of 821 grams. The latter attracts attention when taking the speaker, since you expect it to be lighter.
Commissioning and first steps
The term smart speaker with personal assistant may sound very technological, but actually getting the Amazon Echo speaker up and running is very simple .
The first thing to do is download the Alexa application . When the devices are on sale in Spain the application will be available.
Once the app is launched, we will have to identify ourselves with our Amazon account or, if we do not have one, create one. In addition, they will send us a verification code to verify our identity.
The next step will be to set up the Echo speaker . To do this, we will connect the speaker to the light, if we had not already done so, and follow the steps indicated by the wizard.
The last step will be to tell the application how we connect the Amazon Echo speaker with the mobile . The logical thing is to connect them via Bluetooth.
We will only have a couple of steps to go. We will have to confirm that it is us and verify our mobile phone . Once this is done, we will arrive at the main screen of the Amazon Alexa application.
Amazon Alexa app
The purpose of these devices is to make life easier for us. So the Amazon Alexa app is pretty straightforward too. On the main screen we will have the suggestions and a history of the orders given to Alexa.
At the bottom of the screen we have three icons. The one for the house is the initial screen, the one for the sandwich is the access to "Calls and messages" and the last one is the music player.
We can also click on the three bars that appear in the upper left. Here we will have more options available.
In the option " Music and books " we can configure the Spotify, Amazon Music, TuneIN and Deezer accounts. I understand that these services will be expanded.
We also have the Lists option available , where we will have the lists that Alexa creates. Another option is " Reminders and alarms ", where we will see just that. Finally, we have the Contacts option .
After these four main options, we have the option " Alexa devices " and " Digital home ". The first helps us to review the devices with Alexa that we have configured. The second, as you can imagine, we can use it to add and configure smart devices that we have connected to Alexa (if we have them).
In the last part of the menu we have four options: Skills , Settings , Suggestions and " Help and comments ". Skills are the different services that are added to Alexa. That is, here we can see the news that the Google personal assistant incorporates.
From Settings we can modify some parameters of the speaker, such as Alexa preferences, accounts and even the name of our Amazon Echo. In Suggestions we will see some examples of voice commands and in Help we will have a user guide.
What can we do with Alexa?
Now we will talk about the technical details of the Amazon Echo. But it is the personal assistant Alexa that takes center stage.
As we said, at the moment the Alexa service in Spanish is in beta . So the instructions we can give Alexa are still pretty limited. Still, we have many options. In the following video you can see how he responds to some of them ...
Do you want to play music? Say “Alexa, put I'm a Julio Iglesias rogue”. Or you can say "Alexa, put Cadena Dial." Also, if we have multiple speakers, we can tell Alexa to put song X on a specific speaker.
We can also ask Alexa to put products on our shopping list, set an alarm, notify us in 15 minutes, or ask what the weather will be like this weekend.
But we can also talk to her about more general issues . Do you want to know something concrete? Ask Alexa. We can ask what is the capital of Holland? Who wrote Don Quixote? or how far is it to the sun? Alexa knows many things.
We can even ask you personal questions . "Alexa, how old are you?", "Alexa, do you want to marry me?", Or "Alexa, do you like animals?"
And, as I was saying, this is just the beginning. In the United States you can already do much more with Alexa . The system is integrated with a multitude of devices and services that can already be controlled by voice. Surely many of them end up arriving in Spain.
Did you recognize everything the first time? Obviously not. There are instructions that you still have a hard time understanding. Especially when we say song titles or playlist. But the truth is that it is the personal assistant that works the best that I have tried .
Smart and with good sound
But as I was saying, the Amazon Echo is a wireless speaker . And as such, it is important that it gives us a good sound. Honestly, I was quite surprised.
The Amazon Echo offers powerful and clear sound . In fact, it achieves a maximum volume sufficient to fill a large room.
Inside it hides a 2.5-inch woofer and a 0.6-inch tweeter with Dolby technology . This way you get clear vocals and dynamic bass.
Under the ring of light we have seven microphones that use noise canceling and beamforming technology to understand our instructions as well as possible. This system will allow us to give orders to the Amazon Echo from any direction, even in noisy environments.
To activate the speaker, as I have commented, we have to use the keyword " Alexa ". As you do so, the Amazon Echo's light ring glows blue so we know you heard us.
In my case, I have placed the loudspeaker on the work table. Both from the table itself and from the bed I have been able to activate the Amazon Echo without screaming excessively. If you move a little further you have to speak a little louder, but it usually works quite well.
Conclusions and price
This year artificial intelligence and personal assistants invade our home. The smart connected home is making its way. And the Amazon Echo can be a good device to start with .
To be honest, the first few days I felt very strange talking to a speaker. At first you find it funny, but then you feel a bit "silly. But, as the days go by, you realize that it is a very useful and interesting device .
Of course, you are not going to be asking him nonsense all day. But just being able to tell him to turn on the music or remind you to turn off the oven makes your life easier.
Imagine when there are many more associated services. When we can, for example, tell him to order us a pepperoni pizza. Or tell him to turn off the lights, put Stranger Things on TV, or ask Uber for a car to go to the station. The possibilities, if the system is extended, are almost endless.
The price of the Amazon Echo we don't know yet. As a reference I can tell you that in the United States this model is sold at a price of 80 dollars . On the other hand, the Amazon Echo Plus goes up to $ 150. For now we will have to wait to know the official price in Spain.