As if privately-operated drones and button-press convenience shopping weren’t wild enough, Amazon is making even bigger strides in the field of home automation. Recently, the company announced that the Amazon Echo would be receiving some new features including the abilities to:
- Control lights and powered appliances in your home with voice commands (assuming you have the supported
sockets, switches, and bulbs currently available through WeMo and Hue)
- Give you traffic reports, sports scores, and schedules
- Play your Pandora stations
For those of you unfamiliar the Amazon Echo, it’s a small-ish speaker that connects to the internet. Released as an always-on, at-home assistant, Echo is similar in function to Siri. Like the Apple AI, you can tell Echo to play music, ask it questions, or tell it to take a memo. Unlike Siri, you don’t have to do much to activate the device – just say whatever word you’ve chosen to activate it, and talk – from anywhere in the room, without raising your voice, if Amazon’s promotional video is to be believed. Echo works by connecting to Amazon’s servers, and apparently gets better and better at recognizing and responding to commands over time.
In other words, with the ability to control your appliances is added, we’re looking at what pretty much amounts to an actual robotic servant. It seems like the major downside to the Echo at this point is that once it’s made your coffee, you still have to get off the couch to pour it into a cup. I doubt there’s any reason to panic; I’m sure someone at Amazon is working on it.
Really, as the resident technophobe-turned-tech-writer at AlwaysCurrent, the thing that sticks out to me most about the Amazon Echo are potential privacy issues. The implications of an extremely powerful microphone, in your home, that is connected to the Internet and never really shuts off are pretty readily apparent. Considering Amazon’s position as a gigantic virtual store, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which this device isn’t used to analyze and influence your purchasing habits. Others have considered possible ramifications as well, but honestly, the device is so cool and seems to have so much potential it’s hard not to be impressed and excited by it.