Our Journey with the Amazon Echo Begins…
5 minute read
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Andy Shanks

Word on the street (okay, the internet) is the Amazon Echo sold out online over Christmas. The device seems to be gaining momentum fast or, at the very least, it’s being talked about. We’ve heard good things from friends and co-workers about it’s performance as a product - excellent sound quality, listening capability and reaction speed plus the ability to link to your other services. Without relying too much on mobile, Amazon Echo seems to provide the more intuitive (even human) experience we’ve been lacking. However the technology develops over the next few years, one thing is clear: Amazon has made a big stride in creating a popular

If you think about the Alexa, Amazon’s AI assistant, as just that (your personal assistant) - it makes sense to think about its abilities as skills you can add to its repertoire instead of apps you can add to a device. As of now, there are about 6,000 skills Alexa can take on with voice activation through the Amazon Echo.

While these are shifting in rank ever so often, today’s most popular skills are listed below:

  • Amazing Word Master Game: A simple game of word play. You can duel directly with Alexa or bring in a group of friends for a fun group challenge. The “Word Master” is simple - Alexa says a word, you then have to respond with a word that begins with the last letter of said word, and so on…

  • Harmony: No need to mess around with your remote (or all 5 of them) anymore. Harmony connects to your Logitech Harmony hub-based remote and allows you to turn on your TV, Netflix, Xbox, etc. on just by telling Alexa to do so. Sit back, relax, flip the channel…

  • Hue: This skill supports Philips Hue to adhere to all your lighting demands (on, off, dimming, mood lighting, etc.) in any and all rooms in your home. Here’s to turning your kitchen lights off from your bedroom.  

After browsing through some of these “skills” ourselves, here are a few that stood out to us:

  • Ever feel like planning a spontaneous trip with your friends while chatting? Turns out, you don’t need your computer if you’ve got Alexa by your side. Dish out some details (like budget and dates) and Alexa will give you some ideas of where you can and should go on your holiday. Add the Kayak skill and you’re good to go.

  • What beer? looks to be our favourite Alexa skill out there. Find the perfect beer to go with whatever’s on the menu for the night and you’ll never find yourself with a pairing that’s not-quite-right again (or so we hope). All you have to ask is, “Alexa, what beer goes with pad thai?” for a quick answer.

  • Giant Spoon: Marketers, this one’s for you. Every so often, you’ll find yourself in one of those brainstorms that seems to come to a dead end before it even starts. Enable Giant Spoon for some thought starters and Alexa just might help get the conversation going and the ideas flowing.

  • We recently came across this company (Volara) as well, who seem to be re-branding the Amazon Echo for the hospitality market promising a “seamless” and “extraordinary” hotel guest experience. We’ll be keeping an eye on how this one evolves!

One of our first projects of the year will hopefully involve developing for the Amazon Echo. We’re excited to be in discussions with a client of ours to prototype an application using their technology.  We’re hoping to spend a week or two learning about the capabilities and limitations of the SDK and API and will be taking notes as we progress. Similar to our latest post about building the Amazon Dash button, we’ll be sharing our learnings with readers once we have enough to get the discussion going. As always, feel free to get in touch if you have thoughts, questions or feedback to share.