Meet Amazon Echo
You heard that right, you can add voice control to your home for less than $200. The Amazon Echo, priced at a modest $179.99 as of January 2016, is an always on, voice-activated hub for your home. While not quite as versatile as J.A.R.V.I.S. from Iron Man, Echo is an impressive piece of technology.
You can do things like ask for weather forecasts, search Wikipedia and even restock on commonly used household items from your Amazon Prime account. Amazon is slowly adding features via software updates so you’ll get new features for free. The most interesting features, in my opinion, are the smart home integrations.
Echo enables voice control of WeMo, Phillips Hue, SmartThings, Wink and Insteon products. These systems include things like electrical outlets, door locks, thermostats and much more that would otherwise require launching an app to control. This is exciting because other companies won’t have to build their own voice control system for customers to get voice control capabilities.
Although I’m not a big fan of black plastic hardware, the Echo looks pretty good. It’s a cylinder measuring just 9.25 inches tall and 3.27 inches in diameter, so it won’t look out of place on a shelf or side table. You won’t want to hide it behind the couch, though. As with any voice recognition system, Echo is most accurate when it can hear you loud and clear.
The built-in speaker is fine for normal use and casual music listening, but audiophiles won’t be satisfied with the quality. It’s ideal for background noise during parties and chores. To be fair, it sounds about as good as other compact speaker systems I’ve heard around the $200 price point that do nothing else but play music.
The microphone is where Echo really shines. Even while playing music, Echo recognizes commands from across the room. This is key to Echo’s value because nobody wants to repeat themselves a dozen times or be forced to stand right next to the microphone.
Do you have Echo? How do you control your smart home products? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for the latest smart home updates!