After the success of the Amazon Echo, the Amazon Echo Dot holds a lot of potential for all futuristic tech lovers. Who wouldn’t want to walk into a room and command the lights to be switched on! The Echo Dot does that and much more in a discreet size and a great price.
It is a hands-free, voice-controlled device with a small built-in speaker. It has a built-in Bluetooth and a 3.5 mm audio jack. It has all the great features of the Amazon Echo but in a smaller size.
The Echo Dot relies on the Alexa voice service to perform all of its functions. All you have to do is ask. Alexa is the brain behind the Echo Dot. It can easily play music, provide information, news, sports scores, and weather. It can be used as an alarm clock in the bedroom or to set timers in the kitchen.
Because of its extremely convenient small size, it can be installed anywhere without hassle. It basically brings voice control to any smart device in your house. In short, it is a little disc that connects you via voice to an intelligent assistant. The Dot is one of three Alexa-enabled products from Amazon.
The first thing we experience about any gadget or device is its first impression. And that entirely depends on how it looks. How it works comes later. Echo Dot comes in a white or black color with a black top. The design may sound simple but it is very appealing. The best thing about its small size and simple design is it does not look out of place no matter where in the house you put it.
It merges very well with its surroundings. It can be placed on the bedside table or stuck to a wall. Little jackets can be purchased for the Dot in order to conceal its color or make it go with your furniture and décor. There is a wide variety of fabric choices and colors available on Amazon.
There are four buttons on the top face surrounded by a ring of light and a seven-microphone array. This array of microphones makes it possible for the device to hear your voice command from a long range. The rotating light ring around the top indicates when it’s actively listening to you and turns red when you hit the mute button, electrically disconnecting the mics, so you know when it is and isn’t listening to your voice commands.
In order to make it listen to you again, there is a specific word, the “wake word”, which brings it back to life. By default, the wake word for the Dot is “Alexa”. It is the name of the voice assistant contained within the device. Say the wake word and the voice assistant comes to life to answer questions, take commands and perform actions.
Apart from the microphone which listens to your commands for Alexa, there are small built-in speakers in the device for Alexa to respond back to you, apart from alarms and alerts. This speaker is not, however, big or powerful enough for Alexa to play music. For listening to music, bigger speakers can be connected to the Dot through a specified audio-out port. A 3.5 mm stereo cable can be connected to any speaker.
The Bluetooth function in the Dot can also be used for the same purpose in case you despise wires and possess a Bluetooth speaker. Connect the Dot to your speaker via Bluetooth and enjoy music without fiddling with your phone, CDs and a player or even the TV. Just ask Alexa!
Alexa, named after the ancient library of Alexandria, is Amazon’s voice control system. It lets you speak commands and have them fulfilled like dimming your lights or playing music tracks. Alexa is being used in many of Amazon’s products such as the Echo, Dot, and Tap. Alexa basically streams audio players into de facto smart home hubs and Internet assistants.
Therefore, the Dot is basically just a device that holds Alexa rather than being inside a smartphone just as an app. This device can be installed anywhere and everywhere around the house for easy commands for Alexa. Even if you don’t always carry your phone around, this device sitting in different locations inside your house will take commands as you go. In short, the Echo Dot can do whatever Alexa can do.
To start using the Dot, simply plug the device in, open the Alexa app on your smartphone and connect it to your Wi-Fi network. Once up and running, Alexa can perform a variety of your typical assistant features.
It can set timers, tell you the time, set alarms, tell you what the weather is going to be like, tell you about your scheduled tasks of the day, order you a pizza from Dominos or a cab from Uber, order products from Amazon or the internet, find you nearby businesses and eateries or simply answer any question you ask based on a simple internet search.
Although Alexa has access to quite a lot of information, but when compared with Google voice search, which has a sheer volume of data at its fingertips, Alexa might struggle with certain questions which Google may not.
Though a big difference is that Alexa replies in a surprisingly human way, and can almost always understand what you’ve said even if it can’t answer the question, which means it should get better over time as more data is shoveled into the backend artificial intelligence.
Another great thing about Alexa is its customizability. ‘Skills’ can be added to Alexa based on your preferences and what you want Alexa to do for you. For instance, if you are a big news buff and love to stay updated about current world happenings, The Guardian ‘skill’ will read you the news, headlines or reviews. If you commute daily for work through the train and want easy access to daily schedules, the National Rail ‘skill’ will tell you what your rail commute looks like.
If you love to experiment with new recipes, the All Recipes ‘skill’ will be able to read you one of 60,000 different recipes. If the local cinema provides movie schedule and booking ‘skills’ for Alexa, you can ask Alexa to tell you the movie schedule and book tickets for you! But perhaps the best set of skills available for the Amazon Echo Dot are smart home controls. Alexa supports a wide range of smart connected devices inside your home. Speakers, remote controls, lights, coffee machines or anything connected to a Samsung SmartThings hub can be connected to Alexa.
The possibilities are endless with Alexa. With time, this service will expand and become better. It has a lot of scope in the smart-home sector in particular and the consumer market in general. You can set the temperature via a Nest, set the coffee going via a smart plug, switch the TV on or off, set the channel or do pretty much anything with devices connected to a SmartThings hub.
Amazon is selling the Dots in packs in order to enable you to place them in different locations around your house. The purpose is to be able to connect to Alexa no matter where you are and not necessarily walk up to the device every time for a command, in case you are not around the device. Having many devices around the house, whichever is nearest will respond to your commands. While connected to external speakers, leave the speakers on for Alexa to function.
Pros – very cheap ($49.99 on Amazon), extremely convenient hands-free functionality, far-field voice recognition, loud and clear voice even without external speakers, voice control everything – no fuss, great voice recognition, third-party skills constantly being added, Alexa gets smarter with use, adapts to your speech patterns and vocabulary
Cons – information database not as extensive as Google – can’t always answer a question, external speaker needed for music, privacy concerns – it is an “always listening device” in the house
Specs – size 1.3” x 3.3” x 3.3, weight 163 grams, Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth connectivity, 3.5 mm stereo audio output, built-in speakers, 7 microphones, noise cancellation technology