Insights into building a solid I.T. foundation in the mid-size business world.

Alexa is the new woman in my life

I’ve been one of the lucky ones to have ordered Amazon’s new Echo device just before the public rush that has them sitting with a five month shipping date.

amazon-echoHaving lived with it for a few weeks now, my opinion of the device is both more reserved and more hopeful. At its core, the Amazon Echo is an amazing personal assistant for your home, able to hear your voice and field an array of common questions with surprising speed and accuracy.

Unfortunately, as it stands now, it’s just a bit too limited and the cracks appeared sooner rather than later. It does an amazing job at answering basically anything that could be looked up on Wikipedia. It does a good job of reporting weather when asked. And it will add things to your “to do” or “shopping” lists (so long as you’re using the Echo app on your smart device). But, at the end of the day, I basically use it to stream radio stations.

Where it falls down is in its inability to field inquiries that rely on access to data outside of the Amazon sphere. It took very little time for me to starting myself, “Why can’t I…?”

Some simple examples for you:

  1. It should be able to hook in to my email so it can let me know when I receive a new message from particular people.
  2. I should be able to pair the Echo to my smartphone and not only be able to use it as a BT speaker but to have it read incoming SMS messages as they arrive. It should even enable me to dictate responses, all without taking out my phone.
  3. Why I can’t use the Echo as a speakerphone is beyond me.
  4. I should be able to configure Alexa to “know” where places I frequently travel to are and then be able to ask it “Alexa, I need to be at work by 9am – tell me when I have to leave in order to get there on time.”
  5. In a perfect world, it would even be able to access local transit info and let me know when my bus is approaching!
  6. Heck, I’d be happy if it could at least tell me the distance between Point A and Point B.
  7. Amazon has included a “Daily Flash” function, where you can choose from a canned selection of news categories and have the device give you a high-level overview of those top stories on request. Expand the “Daily Flash” function to include info of my choosing. For example, I should be able to specify musicians I’m in to so that announcements of their live shows in my area are a part of my Daily Flash.

When asked, my one-liner about the Amazon Echo, that it feels like I just stepped a little bit in to the future, is still true. But Amazon needs to get off their duffs and aggressively develop this thing before it gets forgotten.


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