Amazon Echo Is Sleeper Gadget

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Over the holidays I was fortunate enough to receive an Amazon Echo — thank you Santa Claus and those unionized elves. When I first heard about the Amazon Echo, it sounded completely ridiculous — “order toilet paper from the comfort of your toilet by just shouting in the air.”  Indeed, that sounded intriguing and conjures up the most hilarious use cases — “Alexa, I need condoms delivered via drone ASAP.”  <Barry White music starts to play in response>

However, the Amazon Echo is now my “surprisingly useful” sleeper device.  It has become our “home personal assistant” for my family — somewhat limited in capabilities but it surely has huge potential and could become a gateway for a far a deeper AI based personal assistant. A device like the Amazon Echo could surely own the home in a better way than TV set top boxes could or SIRI/Alexa on your phone could.

The most useful use cases for me, most often used in the morning as I’m getting the kids ready for school —

  • Traffic updates to work
  • News headline updates for the day
  • Playing my favorite radio stations and music
  • Run down of calendar for the day
  • Scores for my favorite sports teams
  • Schedules for my favorite sports teams
  • Control for my IoT devices

The Amazon Echo is also trying to be developer friendly with a developer portal and SDK’s available to extend its usefulness.   And of course, they have a $100 million dollar Alexa Fund to help to drive innovation.  Not quite as “accessible” as other developer ecosystems but what developer doesn’t get excited by new sensors and something new to tinker with. The new advanced use cases can be super interesting —

  • “Alexa, turn up the heat.”
  • “Alexa, turn on the Warrior game.”
  • “Alexa, find my keys.”
  • “Alexa, dim the lights and lower the shades”
  • “Alexa, prepare my bath.”

New features seems to be coming out fast as Amazon announces that you can listen to Kindle eBooks via the Echo and a new portable Echo for your travel needs.  I’m not entirely sure about the portable Echo who knows where that could go.

The digital assistant is a killer use case for everyone. Both Google and Apple have released features for Android and iOS will start to pull out items it can learn from your email and take action on it.  I predict that we’ll see some additional competition for the Echo as companies realize that this is a unique entry point to the living room.

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My Life with a Kindle 2

I’ve had the Amazon Kindle 2 for just over a month now and its about time I jot down a few notes about my experience.  Here are the things I like …

  • Compact — smaller than a standard hardcover book
  • Readability — very easy on the eyes
  • Wireless Access — this is killer for me.  I get the New York Times everyday, every morning without having to step outside.  Plus, I can download whatever newspaper, book or magazine where ever I might be.  This is convenience.
  • Upload documents — I’m able to email the Kindle 2 documents that might want to read on the road.  This is great because I kill less trees and my backpack is 1/3 the weight.
  • Battery life — I’ve had no problems with running low on juice — unlike my iPhone 3G.
  • Cheaper books — I like saving money
  • Ability to consume more information — there is something to be said about having that if I have more information at my finger tips, I’ll consume more of it.  This seems to be true for me.
  • Eco-Friendly — not sure if they are made with some toxic plastic but I sure am using less paper

Here are things I don’t like:

  • Larger screen — I never use the keyboard at the bottom — make the screen bigger
  • Touchscreen — not sure how that would work with a digital ink screen but I still want it
  • Color screen
  • Give me blogs for free — they charge me money to read my favorite blog
  • Text-to-speech is over rated — I never use it.  I prefer to listen to a podcast or Ted talk.

Overall, I’m a fan and would recommend it to others.