My family finally got the Amazon Echo in the mail yesterday. We’ve been on the Amazon Prime waiting list for months and were finally given the opportunity to purchase sometime at the beginning of January 2015. After watching the demo video through Amazon, I was convinced that the Echo would be a game changer for “Siri’s” semi-AI technology. At the very least, I thought Alexa, Amazon Echo’s voice name, would be a helpful personal assistant for scheduling, grocery lists, and other handy non-sense. Click here to continue reading.
The Echo was delivered yesterday at 3 p.m. and we were immediately excited. It comes in a really cool black with orange contrast box, which everybody in the family appreciated. Besides the system itself, which looks like a really cool, 9 inch black speaker, it comes with a power cord, remote with magnetic attachment, and instructions. Set-up was a fairly easy process through the Amazon Echo app and took about 10 minutes from start to finish. This includes connecting the device to your smart phone and/or iPad device, logging into your Amazon account, and setting up bluetooth. After setup, we were free to begin asking questions.
Expecting the Echo to perform exactly the way it was portrayed in the demo was my first mistake. Question after question, Alexa didn’t understand, couldn’t answer, or would give a strange Debbie Downer, disgruntled tone of disapproval. If Alexa were a real woman, this is the point she would be giving attitude.
Asking: “Alexa, What is the temperature today?” worked great. Also, “Set a timer for 10 seconds” worked fabulously! Asking: “Alexa, How do I spell computer”, “the definition of ego”, “the author of Lord of the Rings”, “gas prices in my area” and finally “nearest restaurant”…nada. Damn it Alexa! Gimme something I can work with here!
The Echo plays music through Amazon Prime, Pandora, or other apps on your phone if you have it linked via Bluetooth. My Mom asked Alexa to play a Bruno Mars song. It did, seamlessly! Sound quality was outstanding and we were able to adjust the sound by telling it, “Alexa volume at 5” which just means it was mid-level 1-10 volume. If volume is at 10, the loudest, it is unable to hear you. That is one of the many instances the remote comes in handy.
We let Bruno do his thing and then began asking more questions. After nearly 50 intermittent failed attempts to get answers from Alexa, I thought maybe it was me. Maybe my south Louisiana slang is throwing Alexa off. Maybe I have more of a southern accent than I thought. This calls for a Voice Training Lesson. The Echo voice training is a series of 25 random questions that helps Alexa (or the CIA/NSA) acclimate to your voice and pronunciation of words. If you have a lisp, this may help dramatically. Anyway, I was going through about 5 of the 25 questions when strange things began happening.
The Echo began acting very glitchy. Bruno Mars would start and stop playing at different points in the song and at different volume levels. Alexa would begin answering voice training questions even though we were clearly in voice training mode. Very random, odd occurrences that made me believe (though briefly) that Alexa was indeed possessed by Satan. Lexi needs an exorcist…
I finally finished the voice training and began asking Alexa questions again. I will admit that the voice training worked, at least to some degree, but not enough to change my initial first impression.
Overall, I think the Amazon Echo has a lot to improve on. It doesn’t understand or mis-understands basic commands and basic questions. The grocery list feature is nice, but nothing cutting edge that warrants the price tag. It offers a useful to-do list. The weather feature is a nice addition along with an up-to-date news report, but that’s about it. Unfortunately, the Echo is a remedial, novelty, beta product at this point, and (at least until it updates) will continue to be in the immediate, foreseeable future.
Thank you for reading my Amazon Echo review. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me down below. Please share, subscribe, or like me on Facebook if you found this article useful – or somewhat entertaining. See you soon. xo