The is the Amazon Echo. It might look like the insulated coffee mug you drink from on the commute to the office, but it is actually a voice controlled Internet device. In other words, it conducts basic Internet searches and performs certain actions based on your voice commands. You activate the device with the word “Alexa” and then inquire about the weather, ask for a mathematical calculation, request a joke, ask a factual question, or my favorite ask for music. Like other voice controlled services (SIRI, Google voice search), the Echo is far from perfect, but impressive if you are willing to consider just what it is capable of doing. This is one of those situations in which an immediate experience might be less than perfect, but within the context of the voice recognition capabilities of the past what happens is impressive. Certain patterns seem more predictable, but the Echo is also surprisingly flexible.
I have been exploring the capabilities of the Echo for a few days now. I am not certain just how much I will use the device in the long run. I usually sit within arm’s distance of my iPad and using verbal commands still seems strange a bit strange. One function I know it will continue to serve for me is accessing music. We have an Amazon Prime account and this account in combination with the music I have stored on Amazon is really fun to explore using voice commands. “Alexa – Play cool jazz!” “Alexa – Play Muddy Waters!” “Alexa – play Happy by Pherrell!”
I wonder about how this device might be used in a classroom. I am anxious to see how our grandchildren will interact with the device. I reject the notion that we no longer need to things because we an Google anything. However, when we want information that is not available why not have an effective way to get this information. I assume search will only continue to improve. Students in a classroom might be given license to approach Echo and ask their questions. Someone give this a try.