Now you can order the Echo Dot from any web browser


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/09/16/now-you-can-order-the-echo-dot.html


#2

But what does it do?


#3

FYI, I read this article with no preparation. WTF is an Amazon Echo?


#4

Echo Dot (2nd Generation) is a hands-free, voice-controlled device that uses Alexa to play music, control smart home devices, provide information, read the news, set alarms, and more

Looks like its a little embedded computer which buys stuff from amazon,plays music and interacts with IoT devices, presumably also part of the amazon ecosystem.


#5

Its a fetus robot overlord. You talk to it and it rewires your brain.


#6

It’s kind of like having Siri for your house. It also plays well with many “smart house”/IoT setups and integrates with all the relevant Prime stuff.

(Since I don’t have any IoT, the price for Echo was a bit much for hands free music control and Siri-like functionality but $50 is in my price range for a gadget I’ll probably get a lot of use out of so … ordered. Thanks, @frauenfelder.)


#7

I want … but amazon won’t sell one here. :sob:


#8

it wants you to call it “Alexa”, but you can change it to “Amazon” - useful for reminding yourself that it… i mean Amazon, is now listening to everything said in its presence, running it all through the worlds most powerful computers, and figuring out who knows what - tiny overlord indeed


#9

In all fairness, the info run through their servers is likely limited to commands said to the device plus false positives for command detection; not out of any concern for their users privacy but instead simply due to feasibility. That still leaves you with random snippets of sound from your home going to Amazon though…


#10

Sure, unless a Three Letter Agency needs it to be listening all the time. No subpoena petition denied!


#11

You don’t need to know what it does. It’s sufficient to know that you need one. And in a few years, when you stumble across it again in that huge box of broken gadgets in your basement, you’ll wonder why you ever bought it. But in the intervening years, you’ll tell everyone how you can’t imagine life without it, and each time you do, your brain will flood with endorphins, leaving you feeling simultaneously satisfied and hungry for more, as you happily play your small role in the greatest viral marketing campaign ever. Enjoy the ride.


#12

We got an Echo when it was offered for $90.00 or so for Amazon Prime users. After having it more than a year, I’d easily pay 3 or 4 times more for it. It’s one of those rare products that I don’t just like–I love–and tend to proselytize about. We have a dot and a tap now too.

What does it do?

We have the Echo in our kitchen. First off, it’s a great, simple, good sounding kitchen music player–using Amazon Prime, our Amazon music library, or another service like Spotify. From across the room, from the breakfast table, when just standing around the kitchen sipping coffee or talking–you simply say “Alexa, play “Purple Rain”” and there it is. No button to press. No finding your phone–(and when you do, no holding it close and repeatedly saying “OK Google” or “Siri!” and hoping the phone wakes up and the little mic picks up what you asked and gets it to the right speaker that may or may not be bluetoothed or connected at the moment.)

That button-free, always on, gets it right (most of the time) music playing ability is first and foremost the killer-value for us and though it sounds silly, even trivial, I’d say it has been, in a minor way, life changing. We now play whatever song or album comes to our mind on an absolute whim, just by speaking. We just assume Echo is there, and that in a couple seconds the song we asked for is going to play.

I’ve had people who don’t have an Echo say “but my phone does that”— but… no. It (probably) really doesn’t–not from across the room, not likely without some level of physical interaction, and not so dependably it becomes second nature to say-- in a normal speaking voice and without looking away from what you’re doing: “Alexa, play [this song I just thought about and suddenly have the urge to hear]”.

Maybe some other devices/setups deliver similar results, but it’s definitely night and day compared to the practical reality of phone voice activation.

Beyond music… We’re always asking it questions that come up naturally in our day-to-day lives–questions you probably wouldn’t bother to make the (albeit small) effort to access on your phone. With Alexa there’s NO effort, so you pretty much ask anything that comes up in conversation and get (usually) a satisfactory answer. You don’t even think about it.

“Alexa, how old IS Mick Jagger anyway” “Alexa, what’s the capital of North Dakota” “Alexa, how far is it to drive to Topeka from here”. “Alexa, what’s Sunday’s weather.” “Alexa, when’s sunset tonight?” “Alexa, how many ounces in a pint”. “Alexa, wikipedia Archimedes”, “Alexa, who starred in the Magnificent Seven?”

Say: “Alexa, what’s the news.” and you immediately get NPR and BBC news or whatever other news stations you set up. She does podcasts too. And Radio stations.

My wife listens to Audible books–easily starting and pausing them while cooking.

It sets timers: “Alexa, set a timer for 10 minutes.”

Plays games: Over dinner, my wife and I often say “Alexa, open Jeopardy” and play a quick 6 question round.

It tells jokes, sports scores, controls your smart devices like light bulbs, can use IFTT triggers to do things like find your phone.

And there’s a lot more. For us at least–and anyone I know who has one–the Echo surprised us by turning into one of those rare “I can’t imagine living without it now” products. If you look at reviews, you’ll see we’re not alone–a lot of people flat out love the thing. Not like. Love. There’s a reason for that.

OK, done. Sorry for the long-winded fan-boy post. I guess Amazon’s marketing dept. can send me my check now.


#13

But what does it do?


#14

WTF is an Amazon Echo?


#15

darn, i really liked the meta-ness of only being able to order it with an echo.


#16

everything you say goes to the cloud. really, what’s not to like about that?

edit: ok, i said this to be snarky, but now i have to wonder if the device filters for the word ‘alexa’ and only sends recognized commands. that makes more sense, and perhaps is more comforting.
overlord indeed.


#17

false positives?.. my cat is named alexa


#18

Could you tell me more about this? What do you use IFFT for?

Do you you have IOS devices and how do they integrate with Echo/Alexa? Can you play music from iTunes (probably not I guess)?

How large is your kitchen? Does it pick up your voice even when other people are talking or music plays?

I’m asking because I just noticed that Echo will be available in Europe soon…ish.


#19

Yep, like most of these smart devices, it only listens for the trigger word in a local capacity–and starts pumping what you say to the cloud only after that trigger happens. (Confirmation: I can have internet down, say “Alexa, [do something]”, and it wakes up–to tell me it can’t connect to the internet right now and can’t do anything else).

We get all kinds of false positives when we talk about my niece, Alexa. Also the occasional time it wakes up when you’re talking about it instead of to it. Doesn’t happen often, but when it does it invariably provokes a laugh when it pops into the conversation with some random thing trying to interpret what you just said.

It’s very difficult to keep calling it “it”. We always refer to it as “her”–that cylinder lends itself to intense anthropomorphism.


#20

Some lonely booze-filled night you’ll realize that she’s the only one who ever really did listen…