Amazon Echo/Alexa Round up #1: the new news, ParAlexanoia
The Measure Circle’s Amazon Echo/Alexa Round ups are short pieces about the Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) and Amazon’s Alexa Voice Services which may or may not be expanded later. For more information on the Echo and Alexa, see The Measured Circle’s Echo Central.
An Amazon Echo playing 20 questions
As if often the case, it can be a mistake to judge a piece of technology by what it can do now. One of the biggest things about the Amazon Echo (and Alexa Voice Services) is that there will be many applications developed for it, similar to the idea of appstores for SmartPhones.
Amazon is actively pursuing this: both for the Echo itself (their hardware) and for the use of Alexa Voice Services in other devices (the “personality” of Alexa on…well, pretty much anything that can listen with a microphone and speak with a speaker).
This is a
by OverloadUT showing an Echo accessing the
website to play twenty questions.
This gives you a sense of what the Echo will do. I would expect, by the end of the year, that the equivalent of the appstore will be open, and we’ll see all sorts of things.
For example, I would expect the Echo to be able to access Fandango to give you movie times.
That’s a particularly interesting example, since Amazon owns IMDb.com, which also does movie times.
Amazon will keep developing in-house things for the Echo, but I think they will focus on what I call it’s “parse-onality”: its ability both to understand common language, and its personality. Just as Apple doesn’t write a flight status app for the iPhone, but sells apps that do it developed by someone else, I think that will be the model for Amazon. They will make the Echo (the equivalent of the iPhone), work on the parse-onality for Alexa (the equivalent of Siri), and let studios build the other apps.
They’ll make money by taking a cut of apps sales, and charging for delivery. I’ve said before that I think Amazon is trying to become the infrastructure of the internet: the way people access things. Amazon’s product will be happy customers, so they need to focus on that. Then, they charge businesses for that access.
If you buy something through the Echo, that company could pay Amazon…without the customer paying anything additional.
Love My Echo on ParAlexanoia
I recently tweeted my new word:
“ParAlexanoia (noun): fear that your #amazonecho is secretly listening to you and or out to get you”
Author (and independent developer of “Alexa skills”) April F. Hamilton addresses this issue in this Love My Echo (no relation to my I Love My Kindle blog) post:
I’m a bit surprised by how much I encounter this fear of the Echo spying on you…even (perhaps especially) from people in the Millennial age group.
The simple answer is that yes, the Echo could hypothetically be used to spy on you. Telling people not to worry because a blue light comes on when the Echo is listening simply doesn’t work. If this was a conspiracy, a Big Brother Trojan horse, having a fake indicator of when it was listening, so you felt a false of security, would be exactly what they would do.
However, I don’t worry about it. There are lots of devices that could be used to spy on you: your SmartPhone, your laptop (especially with a webcam), your connected car…not to mention someone sitting outside your house with a microphone and perhaps a thermal imager to see you through the walls.
You just have to weigh the risks and the benefits.
I remember someone telling me years ago that they didn’t trust anybody. I wondered how they go to work in the morning. If you don’t trust the company that made your car, how do you risk turning the key in the ignition? If you don’t trust other drivers to typically behave, well, typically, how do you get on the roads? If you don’t trust the people who made your clothes, how do you avoid going out naked?
Sure, there are some people who won’t get an Echo out of concern about surveillance. That’s your choice. I just don’t think the risk is particularly high…and might even be lower, since a lot of people would want to catch Amazon (a company famously protective of customers’ privacy…they fought North Carolina in court and won on not revealing customers’ purchases to facilitate sales tax collection) at failing at this. Higher scrutiny, lower risk.
Not that we don’t love jazz dancers…
I have to say, it may be a bit easier in our household when Alexia Meyer is off So You Think You Can Dance (I’m not sure we’re caught up, so if she is already, don’t tell me). Cat Deeley caused a false positive with our Echo when she said something about Alexia…and “Alexa” played some music because of it! 😉
CNN/Money: “Amazon built the Star Trek computer for your house”
The vast majority of the time that I ask someone if they know what the Echo is, they either have no idea…or they have the device. 😉
I keep saying that I think the Echo will be one of the big tech stories of the year (and especially big at the holidays).
Part of what will make people aware of it is more reviews in mainstream sources. Most of the coverage that I see now is in tech blogs or business blogs.
This article may spread the word a bit further:
It’s a nice little introduction…
What’s the (new) news?
Amazon just announced more news sources you can configure in your Echo app. From the home screen, tap the menu (horizontal lines in your top right corner), then go to Settings – Flash briefing.
These are your current choices:
- NPR News
- BBC News
- ABC News – Headlines and Top Stories
- Good Morning America
- ESPN Radio SportsCenter
- Fox Sports Hourly Update
- Economist: In Other Words
- NPR Business Story of the Day
- ABC News – Business
- NPR Technology Podcast
- TMZ News
- Jimmy Kimmel: Live the Morning After
You can also have Alexa give you these in her own voice:
- Top News
Quite often, I just say, “Alexa, play CNN on Tunein”. That gives me live audio of whatever is on CNN at the moment…and it just keeps playing. Otherwise, it seems to me like it runs out of news fairly quickly.
Do you have a question about the Echo/Alexa? Have you found any cool things it can do? Are you using my hashtags, #TeachAlexa and #AlexaKnows? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.
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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. Shop ’til you help!
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.