Amazon’s Alexa-controlled Echo speaker is a wireless speaker. But it’s capable of much more. Using nothing but the sound of your voice, you can search the Web, create to-do and shopping lists, shop online, get instant weather reports, and control popular smart-home products—all while your phone stays in your pocket.
Alexa (named after the ancient library of Alexandria) is Amazon’s voice control system. It lets you speak your wishes and see them fulfilled—at least simple ones, like dimming your lights or playing music tracks. It turns the Echo, Dot, and Tap streaming audio players into de facto smart-home hubs and Internet assistants. And it’s what turned Echo into not just one of this year’s biggest tech products, but possibly the biggest news so far for those interested in smart-home control.
Thanks to the Echo’s far-field microphones, Alexa can respond to voice commands from almost anywhere within earshot. And there’s no activation button to press. Simply say the trigger word (either “Alexa,” “Echo,” “Amazon,” or “Computer.”) followed by what you want to happen, and it will be done—as long as you’ve set up everything properly and are using the correct command (it’s still very much a work in progress and you should set your expectations accordingly). Once you get used to the quirks, using Alexa feels much more natural and responsive than speaking to a phone-based voice assistant like Apple’s Siri. As a result, you’ll likely find yourself using your phone less frequently when you’re at home. There are some privacy concerns regarding the fact that Alexa is always listening, and there’s still a lot it can’t do, both of which we address extensively in this guide. Ultimately, we think there’s already enough to make the Echo a compelling product today, especially if you’re into smart-home stuff. But you also won’t regret waiting for the next version (or even the one after that).
Make Alexa smarter: https://developer.amazon.com/alexa
Alexa, the voice service that powers Amazon Echo, provides capabilities, or skills, that enable customers to interact with devices in a more intuitive way using voice. Examples of skills include the ability to play music, answer general questions, set an alarm or timer, and more.
The Alexa Skills Kit is a collection of self-service APIs, tools, documentation and code samples that make it fast and easy for you to add skills to Alexa. You can also use the Smart Home Skill API, a new addition to the Alexa Skills Kit, to easily teach Alexa how to control your cloud-controlled lighting and thermostat devices. All of the code runs in the cloud and nothing is on any user device. You can also connect products with Alexa Voice Services.