What is the Amazon Echo? - dummies

What is the Amazon Echo?

By Chris Pichereau, Abshier House

The Amazon Echo is a wireless voice-command device. It is a tall cylindrical speaker (9.25-inches, 23.5cm) which comes complete with a seven-piece microphone array. This device remains in sleep mode and responds to the name “Alexa” whenever it is prompted by voice command. However, this name can be changed by the user. Under development since 2010, the device became widely available on June 23, 2015.

It’s easy to access all of your Amazon content from the Echo. [Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/
Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/leminuit
It’s easy to access all of your Amazon content from the Echo.

Amazon Echo features

The Amazon Echo offers a way to integrate many of your needs into a single device. The features include:

  • Voice interaction

  • Alarms

  • Playing audiobooks

  • Music playback

  • To-do lists

  • Traffic information

  • Weather updates

  • A variety of other real time information

  • Integration and control of several smart devices.

Weather and news is provided from a variety of sources, including NPR, ESPN, and local radio stations. The Amazon Echo plays from the owner’s Amazon Music account. You can also play music from the Amazon Echo’s built-in support for streaming Pandora, as well as from IFTTT (If This, Then That).

Echo is also capable of streaming music from services such as Apple Music and Google Play Music from a phone or tablet.

The Amazon Echo houses voice-controlled alarms and timers. It can also access Wikipedia articles, as well as maintain shopping and to-do lists. The Echo is capable of responding to your questions about Google calendar entries and integrates with Philips Hue, Belkin Wemo, SmartThings, Insteon, and Wink.

Purchasing songs or merchandise by sending a voice command to Echo requires manual intervention to complete the purchase. This allows a sort of administrator control to avoid purchases by unauthorized users.

Amazon Echo hardware components

The Amazon Echo connectivity is provided by dual-band Wi-Fi 802 and Bluetooth 4. The main hardware components include a Texas Instruments DM3725 ARM Cortex-Ai processor, with 256 MB of LPDDR1 RAM and 4GB of storage space.

The Amazon Echo was designed to be voice controlled from the unit, however, a mic-enabled remote control is available. There is an action button on the top of the unit that is provided for user setup in a new location. The microphones can be silenced from here, as well.

To increase or decrease the speaker volume, the top half-inch of the unit rotates.

The Echo has no battery and must be plugged in to work.

The Amazon Echo functionality is evolving. Similar to most technologies, Amazon releases new software for the unit as problems are encountered. Bugs are fixed and pushed out to devices. It can take several days or more for updates.