Let there be light! Amazon’s voice-activated speaker now lets users turn lights and other devices on or off, just by speaking up. Last November, when the Internet goliath launched Echo ($199 or $149 for Prime subscribers), a Wi-Fi enabled smart speaker, it was capable of retrieving information from Wikipedia; helping you keep organized with alarms, timers; and to-do lists; and reporting real-time news and weather. We thought that was pretty cool, but we knew there was more to come.
Now, the web retailer has added enhanced features, allowing you to get sports scores; hear traffic reports and get tips on faster routes; and access your music on Spotify, iTunes, and Pandora. The device is a multitasker, too; it can play songs while responding to additional requests simultaneously.
To help it compete in the smart home space, Echo can now control WeMo and Philips Hue products at the sound of your voice. To integrate your smart devices, you have to tell the speaker, which activates upon hearing the “wake” word “Alexa,” to discover them. If it’s home movie night, just ask Alexa to dim the living room lights, and as long as that’s what you’ve named them in your Hue app, for example, the lights will go down. Because it works with WeMo’s Switch, the Echo can also control whatever you have plugged in to the outlet, including “dumb” coffee makers and fans.
As Amazon continues to roll out new features for the Echo, it will probably start to work more seamlessly with your home. Perhaps Alexa will integrate with the company’s Dash feature, and instead of having to push a button, you’ll be able to tell your speaker to order you more detergent. Right now, it will put your request for more detergent in a shopping list but won’t send the item to your door.