Amazon reinvents…life? Amazon Echo

Amazon reinvents…life? Amazon Echo

The future isn’t here yet…but it has been announced. 😉

You can go to

and request an invitation to buy Amazon Echo.

What is Amazon Echo?

Well, it doesn’t fall into any neat, existing categories.

It’s…like KITT from Knight Rider, or J.A.R.V.I.S. from Iron Man, except it’s only the intellectual part.

You set up this…thing…in your house.  It’s a cylinder, and it looks like a Bluetooth speaker, which it is, partly.

It’s really, really good at hearing you, and appears to be very good at understanding you.

You talk to it…and it talks back.

Watch the video on the page I’ve linked above.

It’s like…SIRI for your life.

So, that’s the obvious question: can’t you do this with your SmartPhone?

To some extent…but the video certainly makes it seem different, more effective, easier.

You use a wake-up word to get its attention (they use “Alexa” in the video, but you can clearly pick your own). It’s always on (it plugs in…doesn’t need to be recharged), and should hear you from anywhere in the room.

Think of that like Captain Kirk saying, “Computer”…but you don’t hear relays clicking before it responds like you do on the Enterprise. 😉

Then you talk to it.

You can ask it to play music.

You can ask it questions (like converting units, or how tall Mount Everest is), or have it tell you a joke.

You can also do this through an app on your SmartPhone which would connect to Echo.

Echo, then, connects to Amazon’s servers.

They’ve clearly made breakthroughs in commercial voice recognition…the voice search on my

Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

is impressive.

You can also have it make a shopping list, or remind you about things.

This is a thing you didn’t know you needed…but do you need it?

Prime members (who get invited) will be able to get it for $99. The normal price will be $199.

The key thing to me will be how quickly apps are developed for it, and what they do.

If it can run your connected house, it could be a solid item.

Let’s be honest: I want one!

I’ve requested an invitation, and I’ll see if I can get one to review for you from Amazon regardless.

To me, this is as big a gamble as the original Kindle was in 2007.

If it flops, I think you’ll see the stock drop…

If it succeeds, it might be a case of “all is forgiven” (as long as losses get under control).

Amazon is becoming the world’s infrastructure, and that’s where I see their future.

Not so much in selling stuff and making a profit from customers buying it, but from selling access and services to other people making a profit (hopefully) from customers.

Will this connect to e-books in any way (hey, I’ve got to try to tie this in somehow!)?

I could see that.

  • “Alexa, read Alice in Wonderland…start where we left off”.
  • “Alexa, just what is a dormouse?”
  • “Alexa, when is the next Stephen King book coming out?”
  • “Alexa, what is on my book recommendation list? Okay, buy the third one.”

I don’t know that any of those capabilities will be there…I’m quite confident about the dormouse thing, not as sure about the others.

I’m going to be able to connect my

Amazon Fire Phone (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

with a free app (it will work with Fire OS and Android, and desktop and iOS browsers…but maybe not all of them right away), which will greatly enhance its value. It doesn’t have good voice recognition now.

I don’t know why this feels so much to me like the 2007 Kindle launch…yes, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was down to $50 in two years after the launch. They’ll start it by attracting early adopters, and go from there.

One more thing: I’ll be interested to see what sort of hardware, in addition to software, is added to it. I could see some accessibility uses. Connecting to it with an app might give a superior real time translation feature. Using Firefly (the real world recognition feature) from the Fire Phone and connecting to it might really help. I could see, for example, a sign language translator.

What I’m picturing it as being is an easy language interface to a powerful computing system…and all those possibilities.

I might be overestimating its capabilities…we don’t really know yet.

What do you think? Does this sound like something you would like? How do you see using it? Will you wait for it to come down in price and to see how people respond? What will it mean for Amazon’s business…and for society?

Oh, let’s make this easy…I’ll do a short poll. If there isn’t an answer that fits what you want, you can add a comment.

Bonus deal: don’t forget about the

Deals in Kindle Books (at AmazonSmile*)

page! Deals right now include:

  • The Kindle Daily Deal
  • The Kindle Monthly Deal ($3.99 or lower each)
  • Grant Morrison Vertigo sale
  • Up to 50% off Spike and Angel (from Buffy) graphic novels
  • 200 Kindle books for $1.99 each
  • 30 Kindle books for $3 each
  • 50 Kindle books for $2 each
  • Kindle Countdown deals
  • $8 or less Whispersync for Voice deals (e-book and audiobook)

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


23 Responses to “Amazon reinvents…life? Amazon Echo”

  1. Karen Salmons Says:

    OMG, of course I want this! I just love techie toys. No, I didn’t say I needed it, I WANT it. From what I’ve read so far most people are making fun of it. Yes, the phone can do it but with this you don’t need to pick up the phone or click on a microphone. Already asked for the invite. A crazy way to spend money but still…

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Karen!

      I suspect that this is going to turn out to be a lot more valuable than the scoffers suggest…again, not unlike the first Kindle.

      It’s going to depend on it’s actual cognitive abilities and its integration…we trailblazers will help determine if it really becomes a “necessity” for people.

  2. Harold Delk Says:

    I asked for an invite; just what I need … more tech toys. Wonder if it will fit in the dog house where I will be sent.

  3. Phink Says:

    I want one, I want one, I want one. I would have hit the ‘Get on your hands and knees and beg Amazon for one of these’ buttons if they had such a button. But I had to hit the one that just said ‘ask for an invitation’ instead. And thanx Bufo for giving me the idea. I will set mine up to wake up when I say “Computer”. But if I get tired of that I’ll change it to “B’lonna” or “Kahless”. Any Star Trek term will do but I think I like computer best. I think I do like “Kahless”. Please, please, please, please, pleeeeeeaaasssseeeee. I want one.

  4. Phink Says:

    There is one area this won’t work as well as my Windows phone and Cortana work. I ask sometimes what the stock price of blah blah blah is? It tells me but also shows on the screen of my phone. When it comes to numbers such as $108.14 up 2.14%. That’s something I really need to see in order to take it in fully. All I will know is “$108 what?” “Up 2 what?” But overall it would be a great addition. I do use Cortana a lot and used SIRI a lot before I swore off Apple forever. This just seems so much easier IF, and I mean IF, it works well.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phink!

      It will have a tie-in to your devices (at least, Android and Fire OS initially), so I think the numbers could show up for you there. That might (but I don’t know) include the Fire TV and Fire TV stick…so that it could be displayed on your TV as an answer. That would be cool, but I don’t know. I’m not a visual person, so that doesn’t really matter to me, but I understand.

      Yes, we do need to see how well it works. 🙂

      How would you compare Cortana and SIRI? I’ve used the latter a bit, the former not at all.

      • Phink Says:

        Comparing SIRI to Cortana remembering I have not used SIRI in close to two years which in the electronic age is pretty much forever.

        They can both be irritating not understanding what I say all the time. I am not a clear speaker however. I don’t think there is much difference but I do love the fact that Cortana will remind me of stuff once I reach a certain destination. I do not like to talk and drive (although in Arkansas that is legal). Texting and driving is legal here as well so long as you are at least 18. That is ridiculous but not the discussion here so I will move on.

        As I am leaving the store I can tell Cortana “when I get home remind me to call Pam”. Or “remind me to carry in my tablet once I reach McDonald’s” (I am one of their mystery shoppers). I am the best at leaving stuff in the car. I use Cortana to remind me of stuff all the time such as “At 9 PM tonight remind me that I might want to purchase Audible’s deal of the day.” I bet SIRI could have also done that but never used it as much as Cortana and looking back I’m not sure why. I probably use Cortana on average of 20-50 times a week and on a busy day as much as a dozen times a day. If I am selected I will use the heck out of this thing. “Computer, who is playing on Monday Night Football?” “Computer, how many meters are in a mile?”

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Phink!

        As someone who trains technology, I know its a complex thing as to which things “click” with a user and which don’t. Even when something can be very helpful, a lot of people will never adopt it. As you mentioned, you just might not have used functions with SIRI that you are using with Cortana…even if they existed there.

        I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen people saying (about the Kindle, among other things), “I wish it could do ‘x’,” when it already does.

  5. Edward Boyhan Says:

    Well, I’ve requested an invite (:grin).

    I don’t think it matters whether this is successful or not — the technorati will pillory Amazon — probably for doing too much with devices — We WANT some dividends they cry (:grin).

    Not in my lifetime mate :lol

    It does seem that Amazon is speeding things up — are they just throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks? Or is there some grand conspiracy afoot to co-opt us all into that dastardly Amazon den of iniquity?

    I just got a Microsoft Band, and MS is facing some of the same negativity — I’m convinced that most believe that BIG is ipso facto bad.

    Anyhow Echo is out of left field — perhaps a whole new product category.

    My biggest gripe: some of these things are complex yet they come with little or no documentation — I mourn the loss of weighty pubs that sit on your lap :D.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      It hink a lot of people writing about this are missing what I think may be the main point. It’s not about Amazon selling you stuff…it’s about them building the interface through which you buy stuff, and then charging the producers.

      That’s my hypothesis, at any rate. Amazon doesn’t need to make money from consumers if they can make it from producers…

  6. D. Knight Says:

    Do I want one? Well, so far, since I hit the invite button at about 3 p.m. yesterday, I’ve checked my email about 20 times to see if the invitation has arrived yet.

  7. jjhitt Says:

    I want one just to see what Easter Eggs are hidden in it:
    “Alexa, who is Hastur?”
    “Alexa, open the pod bay door.”
    “Alexa, What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?”

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, jjhitt!

      They do indicate it will tell jokes, so I’m sure those sorts of responses are part of it. One interesting thing is that I expect it to be updated rapidly and pretty constantly…so they should be able to add jokes. I wonder if it will judge responses in anyway…such as repeated asking of the same question for a joke answer (which would indicate that someone liked it).

  8. Zebras Says:

    I’m just fascinated that I could tell it to add things to my shopping list! But how will it print it on the back of a ripped envelope from my pile of disorganized mail? LOL We are very low tech when it comes to grocery lists. I’m in at $99 but not $199. Kind of weird this asking for an invite then hoping to get picked. How will they decide who to pick? Not a fan of this way of doing things.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Zebras!

      My guess is that everyone will get picked.

      I think they are just trying to build up interest…and, just as a note, this will mean that they won’t have to pay Amazon Associates for those purchases. Since the link to buy will presumably come from an e-mail from Amazon, it won’t have gone through an affiliate link. That saves Amazon money…which could help with a steep discount like this. The Associates, though, will be able to make money when the sales open to other people.

      As to the shopping list…I don’t even use the one in my Safeway app, despite it being easy. We just remember what we want…we don’t buy that big a variety.

      One way it could work is for the Echo app on your phone to recognize when you get to a given store, and check in with Echo at home for your list for that store…then remind you verbally. Just speculating, though…it could also plan a route for you to go to the stores you need to visit. Of course, the shopping list might be mostly through Amazon, which could include groceries in some places.

  9. Round up #275: why the Echo will succeed…and why it won’t, Amazon’s Best Books of 2014 | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] Amazon reinvents…life? Amazon Echo […]

  10. Johnny Says:

    When do you think the echo will be available for purchase without requesting for it?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Johnny!

      Well, after I put in my request, Amazon said:

      “If selected, you will receive an e-mail with an invitation to purchase in the coming weeks.”

      There have been cases where “the coming weeks” for Amazon has meant months, but I don’t think that will be the case. It’s also possible that it goes on sale for the public at the same time it does for Prime members…just at the higher price.

      My intuition here is that they aren’t going to have this available for delivery for this holiday season: I think they’d be pushing that in the announcements if they knew that would be the case. It might be available to pre-order by then, though.

      I’d say my best guess is the first quarter of 2015 (which isn’t that far away). January can actually be a big spending month (thanks to gift cards and returns). I think it could go that early adopters have it in the beginning of 2015 (and maybe, just maybe, Prime members before that), and that it is a more mature product for the 2015 holiday season (say, November). Being more mature might mean updated software…or even, potentially, and Echo 2.

      It’s possible the timetable is much more accelerated than that, but that’s my best guess at this point.

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    […] of my regular readers and commenters, Phink, recently got an Amazon Echo, Amazon’s ambient computing device. It’s an always on voice input device which plays […]

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