One of the amazing presents Elaine got for me for Christmas was an Amazon Echo Dot.
This isn’t a review by any means, but I wanted to share my first impressions of Alexa, who is the software/ai that powers the Echo Dot.
If you have no idea what I’ve just said, here is a video of her in action.
My main exposure to voice assistants has been with Siri on my iPhone, I use Siri often to set reminders and timers but find the speech recognition to be lacking for anything more detailed than that.
The setup was smooth. Like a lot of internet of things devices you download software onto your phone and the device broadcasts an internet connection you can connect to, once connected you can setup the Echo to connect to your home internet.
Like most Amazon products, once you’ve logged in it is synced nicely with the rest of your Amazon account.
The voice recognition has been brilliant so far, far fewer misunderstandings than my nasally Belfast accent normally garners from Siri and Alexa seems to be able to understand more complex sentences without falling over.
The range is also very good, without raising my voice I can ask Alexa to do things from anywhere in my living room (where the Echo is placed).
There have been a few false positives, where I have said something that must of sounded like Alexa, or something we’ve been watching has said something similar. But so far I am very impressed.
The main thing I’ve been using Alexa for at the moment is playing music, I didn’t think I would enjoy not having music coming out of my laptop as much as I do. It is odd because it was just one additional app open, but I think not having controls being shown on my computer screen keeps me more focused.
The sound quality of the Echo Dot is 100% for me and the size of our living room.
The main thing I need to do to get the most out of Alexa is to learn what she can help me do, both in terms of learning more built in commands, adding new skills and using services like IFTTT to automate the things going into Alexa to push them to other services I use.
One site I would recommend to Alexa user’s is Echo Tricks which unsurprisingly is a selection of community gathered things you can get Alexa to do, most are very easter-eggy but still lots of fun.