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An Echo Of Things To Come

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If Amazon’s Echo wasn’t interesting enough, it’s just got a little more so. Launched in November last year, Amazon Echo is a speaker that is as Internet-of-Things as we can get today. What makes it different from the millions of others around is that you can talk to it, and it answers back. Echo has to stay switched on. As it sits there, you command it to play music for you – specific artists, playlists, genresand albums in your collection, or to access streaming services. You can also just call out questions, such as on weather or some simple answerable ones that can come up from a search.  Amazon’s demo shows how Echo can virtually be part of the conversation as one person asks it to play rock music, another tells it to stop, mother asks it to add wrapping paper to the shopping list, and someone else asks it the definition of the word annoying. Siri-like, all the answers are out pat.
 
Echo is a Bluetooth speaker, so you can happily take it from place to place. All it needs is its internet connect so it can access the cloud and give you the music and answers you want. It can even handle to-do lists, read the news, check facts, and more as long as you wake it up with the name, Alexa. You don’t need to shout across the room or go up very close because it has seven microphones at the ready.
 
Now, Echo also adds shopping to its list of skills. It figures, since Amazon is after all, a great big shop, so it was only inevitable that it would tie in with what Amazon does.
 
The Echo isn’t available per se in India for now. First of all, voice recognition would have to be optimized for India, no easy task with all the languages and accents spoken here. You could get it through a workaround from Amazon.com, but there’d be little point as many things available on Amazon for US customers aren’t within the reach of customers elsewhere. And this is particularly true for music. Much of what’s available for the Echo is tied into Amazon’s Prime Membership programme, right now.
 
But Echo is nevertheless a fascinating product because one can see the possibilities in the not-too-distant future when you will have many objects around that are connected and interactive and not restricted to Amazons, by any means. There are other voice enabled speakers even now. SpeeCup is a speaker that responds to voice and gestures. It’s been years since Samsung’s smart TV’s have been able to respond to voice commands. More than the hardware it’s the execution and the careful fitting in into users’ lives that will make or break a new product like the Echo.


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