Amazon Echo is a range of products classed as Voice Assistants.

They are primarily controlled by the human voice. You simply give the Echo a wake word such as "Alexa" then give it a command, e.g. "Alexa, set timer for 10 minutes".

You can get the Echo to perform a huge array of functions, provided by Amazon themselves or by approved third parties. The Echo can play music, radio stations and games, read the latest news, weather and sports results, and search the internet for answers to your questions. The Echo can act as a calculator, currency converter, alarm, clock and timer. You can use it to listen to your Kindle or books from Audible.

It can also help you to communicate when you use the Echo to speak to other Echo devices in your home or other people in your phone contacts who also have Echo devices. Echo can help you shop and buy online from Amazon and from other selected retailers including supermarkets and even takeaways.

The Echo is a smart device, meaning it can be used to control other connected accessories, like heating controls and lights. You need an add on to make this work, like a special home heating control or light bulb.

Echo functions or applications are called “skills”. New skills to enhance its capabilities are constantly being developed and can be added by speaking to the Echo device or using the Alexa app.

Setup

The Echo family of devices connect to wifi (home wireless network). They are electric and must be plugged in. They can be set up either through an Apple or Android app or through an Amazon website. Once set up, skills can be added through the web site or the app. Some sites use a registration process but others can be set up by voice.

Use

There are currently 5 Echo devices ranging from the small Echo Dot to the larger Echo Plus. The Echo has its own built-in speaker or can be connected to stereo or hifi systems or connected by Bluetooth to other devices to both receive and transmit audio. 

The Echo can also control heating, lighting, smart plugs, cameras etc. Home automation is proving to be very popular. In this way blind and partially sighted users can control products that otherwise might be inaccessible.

Verdict

The Echo family of devices are very accessible and usable. It seems a little odd to speak to an inanimate object but voice assistant Alexa does have a personality. She can even sing to you and tell you jokes.

They provide a level playing field for all users as they rely on voice control

We are at the start of an exciting era of products that you control with your voice and that don't rely on screens or complicated menu structures.

The prices for the Amazon Echo devices range from £49.99 to £199.99 depending on which device you go for and the features and functions included.

Further resources