The Amazon Echo is a smart speaker released by Amazon on November 6, 2014. Echo devices use the Alexa digital assistant to interact with a user using voice recognition and answer questions, set timers, control smart home devices, and perform hundreds of other skills.
How to talk to an Amazon Echo
There are many ways you can interact with the Amazon Echo. However, the most common method is with the wake word. The default wake word is "Alexa" and can be changed to "Amazon," "Computer," or "Echo."
Once the wake word is said, the Echo lights up to indicate it is ready for a question or other request. You can then ask a question or make a request. For example, you could ask "What is the current temperature?" to get the current temperature in your area.
You can also interact with an Echo using the button on top of the device or with the smartphone Alexa app.
Amazon Echo skills
The Amazon Echo has thousands of different capabilities known as skills and allows anyone to add their own skill. Below are a few examples of the skills the Amazon Echo can do.
- Answer most basic questions.
- Set alarms, timers, and reminders.
- Get information about the weather.
- Play a song or a genre of music from Amazon's music service.
- Perform calculations.
- Tell jokes.
- Read your Audible audiobooks.
- Play games.
You can see a complete listing of Alexa skills on the Amazon Alexa skills page.
Echo privacy concerns
The biggest privacy concerns that some people have with the Amazon Echo is that it's always listening in their home. However, Amazon assures people that the Amazon Echo only sends audio it hears to Amazon once the wake word is said. So, anything heard when the device is inactive is not recorded or sent to anyone.
The Echo devices have mute buttons that mute the microphone from listening or recording any audio. However, if enabled, it cannot hear the wake word.
Recordings made after the wake word is said can be listened to and managed through the Alexa smartphone app.
Versions of Amazon Echo
There are many versions of the Amazon Echo. Below is a brief description of each Echo version available from Amazon.
- Amazon Echo - The first edition of the Amazon Echo was a 9.25" tall cylinder speaker.
- Amazon Echo Dot - The first Echo Dot was introduced in March 2016 and is about the size of a hockey puck. The Echo Dot can do everything the original Echo was capable of doing at a fraction of the cost.
- Amazon Echo Look - The Echo Look was introduced in April 2017 and included a built-in camera. The camera added the ability to take photos and videos, and included the ability to offer fashion advice.
- Amazon Echo Show - The first Echo Show was introduced in May 2017 and included a 7-inch screen with a 5 MP (megapixel) camera. The screen allowed for additional information to be shown, play videos, and for users to make video calls. The second edition released on September 20, 2018, had a bigger 10-inch screen and improved speakers.
- Amazon Echo Spot - Introduced on September 27, 2017, the Echo Spot is an Echo with a 2.5-inch circular screen that resembles an alarm clock.
- Amazon Echo Plus - The Echo Plus was released on September 27, 2017, and included the additional capability of connecting wireless smart devices in a home and an improved noise cancellation microphone. The second version of the Echo Plus released in September 2018 had all the same capabilities with a temperature sensor.
- Amazon Echo Auto - The Echo Auto is designed for cars that connects your smartphone to your car over Bluetooth and allows interaction with the Echo in your car.
- Amazon Echo Input - The Echo Input is a small device that connects to a speaker of your choice to provide audio output.
- Amazon Echo Link - An improved version to the Echo Input, the Echo Link has additional output ports and a volume knob to control the audio level.
- Amazon Echo Link Amp - A version of the Echo Link with a built-in amplifier.
- Amazon Echo Sub - The Echo Sub is a subwoofer for an improved audio experience when listening to music through the Echo.
Where can I buy the Echo?
All Echo products are available for purchase through Amazon.com and the most recent Echo products are also found through major electronic retailers.