The one thing that I’ve been lacking at home has been a radio player. I do have a 10 year old second hand component-based DAB radio, but it’s now so old and clunky that it’s been retired and is about to go to silicon heaven.
I’ve taken a rather unusual approach to its replacement. Rather than get another component based stereo system, I’ve chosen to get an Amazon Echo (and Echo Dot for the bedroom). These are speakers that happen to have an artificial intelligent assistant built into them.
In essence, the Amazon Echo is a big speaker with plenty of bass that you can connect to over Bluetooth. Handy for playing music from one’s phone. It has very few buttons other than a microphone mute and an “action” button.
But the Echo (and Echo Dot)’s niftiest feature is that it’s controlled by your voice, and it can connect with a number of services (over Wi-Fi) to form a very capable personal assistant. The commands are pretty basic, and there is no context to follow-up questions/commands. For example, if you were to ask about a personality and then followed it up without referring back to that personality – Alexa (for that’s her name) will be very confused. Google appears to be winning the contextual war, so to speak, but I’m sure Amazon will be on it.
I use my Echo and Echo Dot to play audio books from Audible (an Amazon company) – and having collected all four Round the Horne series (30+ hours worth of beautifully crafted comedy), it’s superb. The Echo can also play live radio streams from TuneIn including all the BBC Radios and local radio stations – “Alexa, play Eagle Radio” will invoke Eagle Radio’s live stream.
Echo can also control smart devices in the home too. And there are so many more things this “speaker” can do. The radio player has become intelligent. I now fear that if the toaster and kettle also become intelligent, they may form a household rebellion against me.
But in all seriousness, this is the next big development in IT. We’ve seen it in smartphones (although Siri over here in the UK is terrible in comparison to what Amazon and Google are currently doing), but now it’s coming into the home. My TV will eventually be voice controlled (just waiting for LG to issue an update). Sky have plans to do the same as well. The future is here.