Several years ago, I saw a Kickstarter campaign for Jibo, a personal robot assistant for your home. I was instantly in love and thought I had to have one. Prior to seeing this campaign, I had almost no experience with AI or personal assistants. I am of course a HUGE Iron Man fan, so I always thought it’d be cool to have Jarvis in my home, but that’s a whole different pipe dream. Having never been an Apple fan, I’d never used Siri, and I didn’t even use the Google assistant on my phone.
This whole idea of having some “smart” device in my home to talk to and help me with various tasks sounded amazing. Fast forward a bit, and I receive an email from Amazon. As a long-time Prime member, I had been given the opportunity to pre-order their first release of the Echo device.
Knowing very little about the device, I spent a good deal of time reading about it and learning just why I “needed” one in our house. I’m a bit of an impulse shopper, so it didn’t take me long to commit to the pre-order. From there, I was just excitedly awaiting the arrival of my new toy.
When it arrived, I quickly unpacked it, followed the instructions to get it connected to our home WiFi, and started to experiment. Before long, it was playing music, telling me the weather, and answering the random trivia questions I was asking. While this was all fun and games, I was sure it had be more useful, so I spent some time with the Alexa app on my phone looking at all the skills it offered.
I quickly learned it could do simple things like set a timer (which comes in handy when you have your hands full or messy in the kitchen), tell me the news I was interested in, or replay some late night talk show host’s monologue. I also discovered all the possibilities available with other connected devices–which I of course just had to purchase.
With special light bulbs or switches, I could control my lights with my voice, both turning them on and off and controlling them with built-in dimmers. With a special thermostat, I could simply tell Echo (we call ours Echo and not Alexa) to adjust the temperature. With a special camera and smart lock, I could control access to my home without keys. With special WiFi outlet plugs, I could control literally any electric device plugged into the outlet. With a special sprinkler system control panel, I could tell Echo to run certain zones of our sprinkler system. The options really were endless.
It didn’t take long for our single purchase of an Amazon Echo to turn into multiple purchases toward making our home smarter. Is any of it necessary? That’s the question I get asked most often. Is it really worth it? Should I get something like it? Is Echo better than Google Home or any of the other devices like it out there? My best answer to all those questions is yes and no. As a long-time Amazon Prime member, it was far more logical for us to get an Amazon device than anything else, but as for the other questions, well, read on…
When you come into the house in the dark with a toddler in tow and your hands full, it’s nice to be able to simply say, “Echo, turn on the entry light.” When you’re cooking in the kitchen and your hands are messy, it’s handy to have Echo set your timer for you. When you want to listen to some music, it’s great to have 1 million+ songs to listen to–at the quick response of a voice command–on Amazon Prime. When you’re cozy on the couch but want to turn up the thermostat a couple degrees, it’s simple to tell Echo to do it for you.
So is it necessary? Of course not. But is it handy and helpful? Absolutely! I have a huge list of more things I’d like to get to connect to it. Currently, in case you’re curious, we have:
- 1 Amazon Echo
- 2 Echo dots
- 2 Fire TV sticks
- 5 rooms with Hue bulbs
- Hue lightstrip system in our kitchen
- Wemo light switch to control our exterior lights
- Ecobee thermostat with 3 additional sensors
Our wish list includes:
- More Hue bulbs to add voice capabilities in more rooms
- Rachio sprinkler controller
- iRobot Roomba with WiFi connectivity
- Echo Spot (to do video calls, watch news, see weather, and more!)
All in all, I love Amazon Echo. We use it multiple times a day, and in my opinion, it’s definitely worth the investment.