Earlier this year Amazon launched the Amazon Echo. No bigger than a bottle of wine, the amazon Echo is an internet based speaker that acts as a personal assistant. Devised in the secretive Lab126, (best known for creating the Kindle e-reader), Amazon worked at creating an always on, ever listening virtual assistant inside the home.
Echo connects to Alexa, which is where the fun starts. Alexa is a cloud-based voice service that has the ability to answer questions, find sports scores, check the weather and the news, and pretty much acting as your virtual assistant. She begins listening as soon as she detects the ‘wake word’ which can be “Amazon” or “Alexa”. It’s as easy as “Alexa, what are the news headlines today?”
Alexa is a cloud based brain, it is constantly updated and improved upon so it’s just going to get -smarter and smarter. This always on improvement will come from user generated questions and also amazon aggressively adding new features e.g. this year they added functionality such as the ability to sync with Google calendar and read books aloud from audiable.com. Amazon has also announced $100 million Alexa fund with a view to attracting 3rd party developers to build on their platform and also to integrate voice interface into their software and hardware.
This technology is just the tipping point of creating the future of smart connected homes. Our homes are full of smart devices, and it’s systems like Alexa that will be able to connect them all. However as the amount of smart devices rise the challenge of creating one voice to unite them all will become more difficult. Question is will Amazon be able to push the boundaries for the first agnostic smart home ecosystem.
A home where one device can tell us when to get up in the morning, connect to the white goods in our homes speaking to our heating, washing and cooking appliances, while ensuring we never miss an episode of Downton abbey and suggesting to us music that it knows we will love. Needless to say Alexa is certainly an exciting stepping stone showing that we are not that far from this kind of smart home https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i73n-LTXPIM