Echo speculation: what might be next for the Amazon Echo/Alexa?

Echo speculation: what might be next for the Amazon Echo/Alexa?

One of the most amazing things about the

 Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

is how we keep getting new features.

That doesn’t mean new hardware…we are still on the first version of that. Although there are some changes which could happen there, the real show is in what Alexa can do.

Unlike some devices you may have had, much of what Alexa can do happens outside your house. As Alexa herself puts it (if you say, “Alexa, where are you?”)

“I’m here and my head is in the cloud.”

If you take “head” metaphorically as “intellect”, that’s really true.

Since the processing takes place in the Cloud, new features can be implemented relatively quickly: no downloads.

Another major factor is that Amazon will be opening up a “store”, like an appstore, where you can get “skills” built by third parties using the

Alexa Skills Kit

There are lots of interesting suggestions here already. Not only can people develop for free, Amazon has a $100 million fund (The Alexa Fund) where they will help finance “…developers, manufacturers, and start-ups of all sizes…”.

By the end of 2015, my guess is that there will be hundreds of new capabilities for the Echo. They will come from third parties (both small, innovative start-ups ((even individuals)), and from Amazon itself. The latter will involve what I call Alexa’s “parse-onality”…how it understands speech and uses it, and quips and general answers, in addition to actual built-in capabilities (like the timers and alarms it has now).

Here are some things I think are possible:

Improvements to the Alarm

Current state: you can set multiple alarms. Your Echo will play a tone at the time you specify. It’s pretty good at understanding natural language. You can say, for example, “Alexa, set an alarm for 5:00 PM,” “Alexa, set an alarm for 5:00 this afternoon,” or even just,  “Alexa, alarm 5”. If the time is ambiguous (if it could be 5:00 this afternoon or 5:00 this evening, the Echo will ask for a clarification. You can only set an alarm to go off within the next 24 hours. You can set multiple alarms, by saying, “Alexa, set another alarm for 6:00 PM”.

You can also ask Alexa how much time is left. The simplest way is to say, “Alexa, time remaining.”

Alexa also understands, “Alexa, cancel my alarm.”

This is one of the features I use the most. The ability to set the alarm and to silence it by voice comes in very handy…when I’m exercising, for example, or when I’m writing.

Possible improvements:

  • Making a label. Right now, you may forget why the alarm is going off. You could say, “Alexa, set an alarm at 5:00 to leave for the office,” and have it say, “Leave for the office”
  • Alarm that go past 24 hours
  • Recurring alarms (so you could ask it to have an alarm go off every weekday at 5:00 AM)
  • Choosing a song for it to play as the alarm
  • Choosing a sound for it to play as the alarm
  • Being able to snooze the alarm (“Alexa, snooze for ten minutes”)
  • Creating alarms through the app (right now, you can only turn existing alarms on or off…it remembers previous alarms you’ve set)
  • Tie the alarm into Echo’s home automation (“Alexa, set an alarm for 4:30 AM, turn the bathroom light on, and start the coffee”)

Integration with the Fire TV

Current state: the Echo recognizes the

Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

as a device…in fact, if you tell it to send a song you are playing to your Fire TV, it may name it and tell you that you have to install the Echo app to it!

There is no Echo app for the Fire TV at this point, though…but it’s very likely it is coming.

It seems obvious: the Fire TV already does voice recognition for searches.

However, it doesn’t do voice commands, yet, which you would want the Echo to do.

We would want it to be able to play a video, pause it, and resume it at the least.

I think that before the end of the year, we’ll be able to install an Echo app to the Fire TV. I’d like to see these kinds of commands:

  • “Alexa, play The Flash on Hulu.” (It would probably offer to play the most recent episode first…but ideally the next one in your watchlist). Some might think they won’t do Hulu, but I think that’s possible
  • “Alexa, play Girls.” (It would assume Prime Video)
  • “Alexa, pause.”
  • “Alexa, resume.”
  • It would be great if it also integrated with the X-Ray feature: “Alexa, who is in this scene?”
  • “Alexa, put on a horror movie.”
  • I would also definitely want my Fire TV to be able to send audio to my Echo

I’m not convinced, by the way, that the

Fire TV Stick (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

will get all of the same features.

Could they also make the Echo work with a competitor, like Google’s Chromecast or Apple TV? I see two paths for that. It simply gets developed by a third party developer using the Alexa Skills Kit, or IFTTT (If This Then That) works with the Echo and maybe the Harmony remote.

Send Bluetooth audio from the Echo to a Bluetooth headset

I’m not the first person to suggest this, and there has generally been a pushback: why do you want a speaker like the Echo to send audio to another device?

Well, I think that misunderstands the Echo.

It’s not just a speaker, it’s an interface. I’d much rather call up audio using my Echo than my Fire Phone, Kindle Fire HDX, or laptop.

There are times, though, that I want to listen on headphones…and I want that ability.🙂

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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.

One Response to “Echo speculation: what might be next for the Amazon Echo/Alexa?”

  1. Alexa Skills come to the Echo, plus more home automation | The Measured Circle Says:

    […] Echo speculation: what might be next for the Amazon Echo/Alexa? […]

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