Hi! I'm Jaeheon Shim, a computer programmer and technology enthusiast who lives in Columbus, Indiana. I like contributing to open-source development projects on GitHub, working on my own web-based applications, and writing articles on my blog Learn The Technology. In my free time, I manage CAMEO's public website and provide free tech assistance to friends and family :).
Alexa’s name comes from the library of Alexandria, which stored the knowledge of the ancient world. Alexa does just that, allowing you to listen to music, shop online, play Jeopardy, and even turn off your lights. The Alexa assistant comes in the form of the Echo, which is a cylinder shaped device that responds when you say, Alexa.
The structure of the Echo dot, which is the product we are reviewing today, is very simple in design. I don’t want to say minimalist because the Echo Dot is exactly the opposite. The button with a dot on it is a way for you to trigger Alexa without saying, ‘Alexa’. I don’t really see the need for it, but it doesn’t limit the functions. Then there are the volume increase and decrease buttons. You can also change the volume by saying ‘Alexa turn up the volume’, or ‘Alexa set the volume to (A number between 1 and 10)’. I think the Echo Dot’s volume is loud enough at full, but you can always attach a speaker to it by Bluetooth or an AUX cable. Then there is the mute button, which you can press when you don’t want her* listening. (*Alexa says she is female in character) The most prominent feature of the Echo Dot is the ring light, which lights up and points to the person who said ‘Alexa’. It can also change colors to signify stuff like loading and muted.On the side of the Echo Dot is a port for USB power, and a hole for an AUX cable in case your speakers don’t support Bluetooth. Also, you must always keep the Echo Dot plugged in. It does not have a battery.
The Echo Dot is capable of doing many things, and all you have to do is install the Amazon Alexa app on your phone. Then, you can connect and control smart home devices, set up alarms, play music, connect your contacts, and initiate routines. (More on those later) The one significant thing Alexa isn’t capable of doing is calling 911.
You can set up smart home devices like Kasa, and control your home with them. I currently have one set up, and it controls the light to my bedroom. I just have to say “Alexa turn my bedroom lights off” and the lights turn off.
You can also tell Alexa to remind you, set a timer, or wake you up. With smart home devices, you could tell Alexa to turn on your lights at a specific time in the morning
If you connect Spotify to Alexa, it can play music directly from it. Otherwise, you can use Amazon’s music service to play music.
But these are not all of the things Alexa can do! Alexa can do much more, a list of its capabilities would take an article up in itself!
The smart home feature of the Alexa devices is a particularly useful feature. It is just what it sounds like: It allows you to control your house and toggle lights without ever flipping a light switch. I have programmed my Echo Dot to turn on and off my bedroom’s lights by just saying a simple command: “Alexa, turn on my bedroom lights”. All I have to do is say a simple command, and the lights automatically trigger. I can’t really provide any instructions on this feature because all devices are different, but I’m sure you’ll figure it out.
Basic Capabilities (Set a timer, search the web, etc.)
You can almost always talk to Alexa as you would to a normal human being. Therefore, it’s really simple to do basic things, like setting a timer (Alexa, set a timer for [x] minutes). Since speech parsing engines have improved their algorithm, you could even say (Alexa, remind me in [x] minutes). Alexa can also search the web for generic things, and provide calculations and currency prices.
Amazon allows you to download custom software to your Alexa. Most of these applications are smart home apps and capability apps (Hence the name ‘Skills’), but some of them are related to entertainment. One entertainment skill I really enjoyed was the jeopardy app, which simulates the Jeopardy TV show. You can download these skills to your Echo from the Alexa app.
I think that the Amazon Echo Dot is really an useful tool to have around. You can’t call it being lazy to turn off your light by uttering commands. Do you think the Cavemen called their friends lazy because they were using stone hammers? I believe technology is just another part of evolution, and it will simply just keep advancing. Humans are driven to make things easier for themselves, so soon, the future where robots do everything for us will become the present.
But now back onto the summary.
The Echo Dot is pretty useful, and its’ many functions allow users to interact it in the most human-like way possible. Also, if you get bored, you can even have a conversation with it.