We got one skeptical writer to try out Amazon's Echo home device—here's what she discovered.
I’ve always been a little bit suspicious of Artificial Intelligence (Terminator, anyone?), so when I got the opportunity to test out the Amazon Echo I did so with a little—okay, a lot of—hesitation. Thankfully the experience was a lot better than I expected and I only got scared once (more on that below).
Here’s what living with Alexa was really like.
The set up process
Setting up my Amazon Echo was super easy. In fact, I didn’t even use the instructions that came in the box. Instead, I started by plugging the Echo into my wall and downloading the associated app, Amazon Alexa, to my phone. All that was left to do was connect the Echo to Wi-Fi and choose my preferred Wake Word, and I was able to do both in the app. I chose to call my Echo Alexa, but you can choose between three other Wake Words, including Computer, Echo and Amazon. (The Wake Word is the word you use to address Alexa, preceded by any questions you want to ask.)
Pro tip: If your name sounds anything like Alexa, choose a different Wake Word.
Now that my Echo had a name, I could start talking to
her it. My first question? "Alexa, what’s the weather going to be like today?" I know, boring. But I’m just being honest—and in Canada it is important to check the weather!
After I discovered that it would be sunny all day with a chance of rain in the evening, I decided to do a quick Google search to find out what else Alexa could help me with—and there are so many ways the technology can enhance my life. From important kitchen questions (such as how many ounces are in 1 cup), to my morning debriefs, (which included a 2-minute sports breakdown, an e-news update and a motivational quote), Alexa had me covered. It's a great hands-free way to get a little help whether you're covered in flour from baking or you're in the middle of putting on your makeup and want to know the news.
I should mention, one night Alexa did give me a bit of a scare. I was watching a scary TV show, when all of a sudden Alexa said, "Hello," completely unprompted. Since I hadn’t had my Echo for a long time, I wasn’t used to its voice and for a split second I thought someone was in my apartment. I was spooked. In hindsight, it probably only started talking because one of the characters in the show had a similar name, but having an Alexa definitely takes a bit of getting used to.
Other than that one night, Alexa has been nothing but helpful. I’ve even caught myself wishing there was one around my office at work.
The bottom line?
Although I started this process a skeptic, I’m a full-on Alexa supporter—I’ve even convinced one of my friends to add one to her wedding registry! The Amazon Echo has replaced my need to Google search, ask Siri and even takes the place of my radio (yes, it plays music, too!). Sitting at just over $100 the Echo is a little on the expensive side, but it has so many useful functions that it’s worth the price tag, in my opinion. I can see how it would be particularly useful for people who have a little trouble working a computer or who prefer to be hands-free—not to mention those who might have mobility issues, of those who prefer listening to reading.
Would I buy this product again? Definitely. I’ve even considered buying a second one for my bedroom!
Amazon Echo, $130, amazon.ca.