How the Echo Show kept our family together at a wedding

How the Echo Show kept our family together at a wedding

When I first got the

Echo Show (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I wrote my

Echo Show: first impressions

Part of what I said was:

“There’s no question that when you set it up, it’s a cool…thing. 🙂 I say that, because it isn’t really obvious what it is at first. It’s sort of like the first Kindle back in 2007, or I suppose a television set in 1948. It does something for sure, and it’s clear that something is futuristic and pretty unprecedented…but just how you’ll use it, and how it will fit into your life, is a bit of a mystery. You have no doubt that it will fit into it, even become important…but for now, the right reaction seems to be a half smile and bemusement.”

I now know the answer to the question.

One of my siblings just got married in New York. Most of my family lives on the other coast, and my Significant Other and I made the trip there. Our now adult kid also met us in New York.

Another of my siblings, though, has a physical condition which prevented making that cross-country trip.

We both have Echo Shows. It occurred to me that I could simply pack our Echo Show in our checked suitcase, and then set it up to allow “attendance” from California.

I had the original box in which it came (doesn’t everybody?) ;), so I was confident in packing it (I also wrapped it in clothes…I had some bubble wrap (again, doesn’t everybody?), but that seemed less practical (and I was a bit concerned it might interfere with their security checks).

Initially, I thought we might use it at more than one event…the family dinner, the rehearsal dinner, the reception, and a brunch.

It turned out not to be practical to take it to the events at restaurants. I could have provided it a wi-fi hotspot from my Samsung Galaxy S7, but plugging it into electricity would have been a challenge. I had even considered bringing a portable  power supply, but another issue would have been getting it from place to place. We didn’t rent a car: we used Lyft most of the time (and subway/trains part of the time). This was our first experience with Lyft, by the way, and it worked really well (although it could be expensive: a $50 trip for two of us. It becomes cheaper with more people, obviously).

The Echo Show isn’t a big item, but it does have some weight to it, it is deep, and with me only having one hand free (I walk with a cane) and needing to grip railings sometimes (I will say, I was surprised at how difficult it was to get around in New York subway stations…there often weren’t elevators nearby, or working escalators) it just would have been too hard.

At the reception, however, it was perfect.

The wedding and reception were at a working farm (which is set up for the public to visit). There was a reception hall. I explained to the very helpful host there what we were doing. There was an issue at first: apparently, the people with the sound system had blown a fuse, so the first five or six electrical outlets we tried didn’t work.

We did find one actually in the reception hall near a window. I could plug it in and put the device on the windowsill. I also did tip it forward: in a future generation, I would love to see a screen you could tilt on the Show. The angle that it is at now (I’m guessing maybe 30 degrees) is great if you are standing above it looking down…for example, if you were cooking in the kitchen and watching a “how to” video on YouTube. The camera ends up pointing too far up if you are trying to have a conversation with the person…they tend to see the ceiling. When I had it set up in the window sill (which was somewhat above waist height for an average person), my remote sibling couldn’t see the tables in the room until I leaned it against the window. This sill was deep enough that it sat fairly securely, but I would have been happier to just tilt the camera or screen.

I was part of the wedding party, so I couldn’t livestream the ceremony itself (the ceremony was great,with a reading from Hitchhiker’s Guide!). With the effective “far field” microphones, my remote sibling was able to hear the ceremony from inside the building!

Before the ceremony, I had introduced a number of people. I thought that might be awkward, but people embraced the idea right away. They did tend to speak more loudly than necessary…like early users of the telephone or cellphone, perhaps. They were very friendly, and the tech worked just fine. Oh, I forgot to mention…the host did need to give me the wi-fi password, and I did need to sign into my Amazon account, but those were both easy.

During the reception, it was just as I had hoped. People walked up and chatted. I glanced over at one point, and the people at the nearest table (we didn’t know them) were holding up the wedding program for my sib to see. I did turn up the volume when it got loud, so people could hear better.

My sib commented on dancing along to a particular song, and enjoying “being there”.

The cat watched part of the wedding, too. 🙂

When my remote sibling had to get up, they just put a physical sign on the chair that said, “Be back soon”.

All in all, it was a big success.

This is what we want our technology to do: to improve our lives, to bring us closer together, to give us opportunities we wouldn’t have had otherwise.

It should be simple. It should work. It should be a benefit.

At the wedding, the

Echo Show (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

did all of those things.

A few last thoughts:

  • I do wish we had taken advantage of the discount and bought two Echo Shows at the same time (that discount is still available…it’s basically a two pack). I would have given one to our parents to use
  • I was thinking about how the venue could buy one. The one big hurdle to that is that you have to be on someone’s contact list and they have to have opted into it. That could still be done: the guest would log into their own Amazon account, just like I did. The other person would need to be set up as a contact. I do wish Amazon would make that easier, so we could call anyone with the Alexa app or a Show) and they could opt in that one time
  • There is a hypothetical risk that someone could simply end the videocall and then use the Echo Show to order things. You can stop the ordering, but it would be interesting to be able to lock the videocall into being all that’s on the screen without entering a code
  • Could you have done the same thing with an iPad or other tablet? I suppose that’s possible…but the microphone tech on the Echo Show makes a big difference. There was also the simplicity…plug it into the outlet, put in the wi-fi password, my password, and make the call. I have used Facetime some, but I just don’t know how it would compare

Thank you, Amazon, for helping who we are, both alone and together, transcend what limitations the physical world can place on us.

What do you think? Do you have questions about our experience? Have you done remote presence another way which worked well? I would have considered a remote presence robot, but those are very expensive…and would have been impractical for it to move around in a dancing crowd…and do you think that might have been creepier? Feel free to let me and my readers know your opinions by commenting on this post.

Bonus story: I like to include a book-related story, and this is a page on Amazon I hadn’t noticed before:

Price Drops on Recommended Books (at AmazonSmile*)

This one was really interesting! I don’t know if I’m only seeing books which are recommended for me…I don’t think so, but I have eclectic enough buying habits that it isn’t obvious. I might have bought many of the books I was shown, but there weren’t any shown which would match with say, the recommendations I get based on my wish list(s). There were books by Robyn Carr, Nelson DeMille, Nora Roberts, and Loren D. Estleman, among others. There were about fifty titles. The discounts looked like they went from about 20% to about 75% off…significant. I won’t tell you that they are bestsellers from the Big 5 publishers, but there are well-known authors from major publishers (Silhouette, Open Road). I think it’s worth checking…

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All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amaz on 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! :) 
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.

4 Responses to “How the Echo Show kept our family together at a wedding”

  1. Lady Galaxy Says:

    I have a cousin who lives in NYC and also uses a cane. The last time we talked he was complaining that the subway system is so hard to navigate with his cane that he’s having to use the bus lines which means it takes him much longer to get where he’s going and he often has to take the scenic route involving several changes of bus.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      I noticed that the informational site let me pick trips which were friendly for those with disabilities…which clearly indicates that there are ones they know aren’t. We do get notifications where I am if an elevator isn’t working, but when everything is working normally, all of our stations should be accessible via wheelchair (which also means with a cane).

  2. New Amazon device announcements! | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] How the Echo Show kept our family together at a wedding […]

  3. My Echo Spot is here: it’s cute! | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] How the Echo Show kept our family together at a wedding […]

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