Pages

Friday, December 1, 2017

A Month With Amazon Echo Dot.

Amazon Echo was released in India last month and I bought one right away. I was actually waiting
for any of the voice assistants to be released, I would have personally wanted the Google Home to be released as I have been trying to build some Google assistant apps lately. Also Google kind of has all my personal data and it could just crunch and give me the right information in right time like Google now does in phones. I had recently successfully run Google Assitant and Amazon Alexa on a Raspberry Pi3 but the features there were very limited. The Echo Dot was very cheap and I had a spare Bose sound doc with Bluetooth receiver which I could connect to Echo Dot. Following is my impression after using it for a month
  • Voice recognition is amazing (both the word "Alexa" and the question followed). Even from the other corner of the room, I ask something not very clearly (e.g. in grumpy voice) it recognizes it. It even worked with my friends who have different accent than me. Great job Amazon there.
  • I am a big-time radio listener it can play and switch to almost any internet radio channel from TuneIn in a second. It's really painful to search and change stations from a Bluetooth connected phone and if you get any call or notification in the phone it would interrupt. I usually play BBC world service, VOA, 977 adult hits, NDTV India etc.
  • I could also play any songs (Primarily English  & Hindi) from Prime Music randomly as it occurs to me, right from my desk or sofa while working on a laptop or playing with my daughter. When you play from the phone, it can be interrupted during notification and calls and the phone has to be near me, I need to locate the music app and search the song. Also sometimes when you want to immediately pause/stop/lower the volume it's not straightforward with the phone, with a lot of apps running. There is no custom playlist yet that you make and let Alexa play. It just learns from your pattern and tries to play the artists you may like when you don't mention what songs to play. I am waiting for the prime music to be launched in mobile. I will probably cancel my Google Music subscription (I can't play them in Chromecast and completely go Amazon.
  • I don't really have any smart light yet as they are very expensive but it could be useful. I am planning to buy TP-Link HS100 Wi-Fi Smart Plug.
  • It can read the news headlines from your choice of sources i.e. NDTV, TOI, and Cricinfo when you ask for Flash Briefings but once you enable the sources it will play all of them one by one, which is very annoying. Why can't I ask for the source I want. In most cases, content is same across sources.
  • I am not able to add my work calendar yet (Microsoft Exchange) as it requires my company's IT admin rights. I don't really much on Google Calendar except reminders to pay credit card bill.
  • I am not really interested in asking trivial questions like (how are you? and how old are you), it could be funny to demo but pretty much useless. Even weather does not change much in Hyderabad.
  • I am a podcast listener as well but the AnyPod skill is not really easy to manage and it can't pause the episode.
  • Once in a while, I have asked cricket scores during the current Ashes and India-Srilanka series.
  • I have set reminders and it's more useful then smartphone as it just shouts outs loud when if you get to check your phone.
  • I have not found a good skill to ask about my investments stock market (app idea?).
  • Uber skill is buggy as it goes into loop and I am yet to try Ola. Hope they fix the skill soon.
  • My most wanted feature is to be able to make calls but again not sure if I ever call someone with speakerphone on.

As you see I am mostly using it for radio and music, however, I am looking for ideas to build skills myself which can make things easier for me. Feel free share ideas in the comment :)