Thinking out loud.
There’s a bit of a dichotomy between the virtual assistants we see in fiction, and the ones that are beginning to invade the marketplace. We weigh the dream-like notion of the digital companion from Her against the hilarious shortcomings of Siri, Xbox Kinect, and other efforts. The promise of omniscient devices is hard to swallow when Siri texts “buttermilk pancakes” to my boss, and I frequently argue with my TV in front of a toddler.
Maybe Amazon can help. Unveiled this morning, the Amazon Echo is an unusual device that replaces your smart phone’s assistant with an always listening, uh, rod of intelligence. Similar to “OK, Google…” and “Hey, Siri,” the Echo listens for a keyword (“Alexa,” oddly enough) and can respond with relevant information and media content. Sounds like an interesting tool for the whole family to use, especially considering the upgraded speaker/mic when compared to a phone.
If I sound a little skeptical, it’s because I am. There’s an odd lack of a “wow” factor here, with functionality that mirrors Google and Apple’s endeavors since 2011. I’m also curious of Amazon’s eventual plans for the device, considering their core business is selling me everything. I’m already tempted enough to buy new toys… the last thing I need is a small robot cylinder whispering “hey, you’d look good in that…”
The Amazon Echo is available for $199 by invite only ($99 if you’re a Prime subscriber).