Meet Alexa 1

Hot Tech Gift Talks Back

Meet the newest member of our family, Alexa. She’s not a baby, nor a pet. Alexa is our Amazon Echo, a cloud-based, voice-activated, Bluetooth speaker. She is definitely the only one in the family that answers my every beck and call.

Amazon Echo became available to the public only this past summer, but when it was first released in limited quantities over a year ago, our family was given the option to welcome Alexa into our household.

Here are my thoughts, as an experienced Echo user, on the top five functions of the Amazon Echo.

Alexa Plays Music

This is the number one thing for which our family uses the Echo. It serves as a quality Bluetooth speaker that plays your online music collection. Additionally, Alexa will stream almost any radio station live—don’t get too excited sports fans, live sports will not stream. You can adjust the volume or genres with a simple voice command, which Alexa can “hear” from at least 20 feet away,  a feature that comes in handy when you’re a room away and have your hands full.

Alexa Answers Questions

Alexa relays a ton of useful information, including facts about people and places. She also responds to movie quotes and tells jokes. This is our kids’ favorite feature; they love to ask Alexa questions about Star Wars. Alexa’s depth of knowledge doesn’t compare to Siri, because she will not answer the variety of questions that a dedicated information engine does. That said, Alexa is fun and funny.

Alexa Announces News and 
Weather Updates

Another popular use of Alexa in our household is to get news and weather updates. She will report the weather conditions of any location worldwide up to 10 days in advance. She also gives tailored traffic and news reports on command. Alexa’s “hearing” is so good that we can stand at the top of our stairs to get the weather report before we get dressed each morning. With Alexa’s help, we know if it’s t-shirt or sweater weather before we even come downstairs.

Alexa Creates Lists

Alexa has the capability to create lists, such as to-do and shopping lists, that can be accessed by the user online or on a mobile device. Anyone in the family can add something to the shopping list, and then it can be viewed on a phone at the grocery store. This feature is both a pro and a con, as I recently noticed that my wife asked Alexa to add “clean the garage” to my to-do list.

Alexa Does So Much More

Some of the more powerful applications of the Amazon Echo lie in its capability to interface with other devices and computer programs. With additional purchases and set-up, you can use Alexa to dim your lights, turn down the heat or send emails. Since its inception, Amazon has continued to add more functionality to the Echo and its capabilities will continue to grow.

Our Amazon Echo sits in a discreet and convenient location near the kitchen table. She has become like another member of our family. The Amazon Echo is a hot gift item this year, sweet-talking its way to the top of Holiday Wish Lists. If you are looking for a fun, practical and useful gift this holiday season, consider the gift of Alexa.