Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Review: Amazon Echo Dot

To be clear at the get go; we were given one Amazon Echo Dot to review. Subsequently we have bought ourselves three more.

What is the Amazon Echo Dot?

  • Amazon Echo Dot is a hands-free, voice-controlled device that uses Alexa to play music, control smart home devices, provide information, read the news, set alarms and more
  • Connects to speakers or headphones through Bluetooth or 3.5 mm stereo cable to play music from Amazon Music, Spotify and TuneIn
  • Controls lights, switches, thermostats and more with compatible connected devices from WeMo, Philips Hue, Hive, Netatmo, Nest, tado° and others
  • Hears you from across the room with 7 microphones for far-field hands-free voice control, even in noisy environments or while playing music
  • Includes a built-in speaker so it can work on its own as a smart alarm clock in the bedroom, an assistant in the kitchen, or anywhere you might want a voice-controlled device
  • Always getting smarter - Alexa updates through the cloud automatically and is continually learning, adding new features and skills

Image from Amazon Website

Why did I think Amazon Echo Dot would be helpful?

  • I didn't. 
  • I really couldn't imagine how it would be of any use to me.  
  • I could use my phone for everything I thought it could do and thought it was a gimmick. 
  • But hey, it was worth a try and Rachel was going to enjoy trying it out so I thought I'd have a go and see what it could do.

How did we use it in the first week? 

  • Jokes - Alexa tell us a joke was surprisingly entertaining in the first week
  • Music - Playing music from Amazon Music where we keep all our music was really useful and we were surprised by the strength of the speaker and the ease with which it found our playlists
  • Weather - It is so much easier for me to hear the weather than try to have my voice over read my phone's weather app; this was a big advantage
  • Lists - I used the list feature a fair amount in the first week and although I've barely used it since it will be helpful when we're creating family lists for packing for holidays etc
  • Alarms - we all now use Alexa for our morning alarm calls and it works better than a phone alarm, it must be the pitch
  • Timers - this has been helpful for all sorts of things from cooking to challenges to games to medication reminders

How did we use it in the first month? 

  • Controlling light bulbs - Mike got over excited with the idea of helping me with light levels around the house and has spent many many hours buying new light bulbs and programming them so that we can now control every single light in the house to turn on and off, change light level and for some of them even change their colour
  • IFTTT triggers - we have been using a range of the IFTTT triggers with favourites being connected to the lights so the trigger "Alexa trigger night night" turns off every light in the house in case we forgot any
  • Home security - the great thing about having the lights under control is that we can turn them on and off when we're not at home - at least Mike enjoys this and it makes him feel that the house is safer
  • Door bell - even the doorbell is Alexa controlled

How has Amazon Echo Dot helped me as a person with sight loss and mobility issues? 

  • Can control light levels with voice
  • Can control colour of lights with my voice
  • Can set alarms and timers easily
  • Can listen to my audio books and music louder

Our future plans
We're looking into new door entry systems so I can open the door without having to spend 5 minutes hobbling around the house.  We're hoping to use voice commands for this.

Any negatives?
Only when Rachel's friends come round and think Alexa is the best thing they've ever found to talk to and just don't stop.

Anything else? 
It's worth mentioning that Mike is a computer programmer and has spent dozens, if not hundreds of hours writing code to get the lights to be this clever.  But he's enjoyed doing it and has helped him feel like he's being useful.

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