Amazon Echo: So Much More than a Speaker

Amazon Echo

Echo is a sleek looking speaker connected to the cloud that has the ability to do a multitude of things, including enhancing your fitness life.

It’s Thursday, and that means it’s time for another helping of fitness-centric technology here on the PricePlow blog. We’ve covered the Atlas Wristband and Amiigo, which are geared 100% towards enhancing your workouts and overall fitness goals.

Today, however, we’re going to look into something that you might not think has much to do with fitness at all, the Amazon Echo.

What is it and how will it benefit your fitness endeavors? We’ll get into that in a moment, but first make sure to sign up for PricePlow alerts and see where to get the best deal on the Echo!

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What is the Amazon Echo?

Amazon’s Echo is a hands-free, wireless speaker, music player, voice assistant, and automation hub all designed around your voice. It includes seven, yes seven, microphones and “beam-forming technology.”[1] This means it can hear you speak from across an entire room even if it happens to be playing music at the same time.

Echo connects to a cloud-based voice service named Alexa (how sassy sounding?!), that can answer questions, give information, check the latest sports scores, weather reports, and news alerts, all at a moment’s notice. All you have to do is utter a “wake” word, and Echo’s internal brain starts working. By the way, the “wake” word is “Alexa” or “Amazon.”

The “Guts” of Echo

The echo is a rather impressive piece of technology coming in at a paltry 26.9 oz (just over 1.5 pounds) and is 9.25 inches tall. Inside, it houses a 2.5” woofer and a 2” tweeter for its audio components.

Amazon Echo Insides

Echo houses bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and two speakers all inside its time 9.25-in. high column.

It comes standard with dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi for better streaming and fewer lost connections to your in-home Wi-Fi service. Additionally, it comes with bluetooth connectivity to handle streaming music (or any other type of audio) from your mobile device to Echo and Audio/Video Control Profile (AVRCP). The AVRCP allows you to have voice control over any of your connected mobile devices. Sadly though, it is not compatible with Mac OS X as of yet.

Echo’s Many Facets

Echo is much more than just a fancy voice activated speaker/ audio playback system or Siri wannabe. In addition to playing music, Echo can give you up to the minute news, sports, traffic or weather reports from national or local media outlets using services like ESPN or TuneIn Radio.

Forgot to order something off your Amazon Wish List? No worries, as Echo can automatically restock any item you’ve previously ordered from Amazon, including Prime-eligible products. Or you can have Echo check your Google Calendar to remind you when it’s time to make your next order!

Say you wanted to dim the lights and set the right “mood” for a romantic dinner. Echo works in tandem with devices like Belkin WeMo and Philips Hue to adjust the fan setting, dim the lights, or turn on a remote space heater. Cue up some Barry White or Marvin Gaye, and you are well on your way to a nice relaxing, romantic evening for two, all without having to lift a finger or stop cooking that 5-course meal!

Echo is always updating and learning as well. Since it’s always connected to “the cloud” it receives constant updates and “learns” the more you use it. It becomes accustomed to your speech patterns and personal preferences.

Fitness Applications

This sounds all well and good, but how does this benefit the fitness freak in all of us? Well, you’re only limited by your imagination!

You can stream custom playlists to have the right “mood music” blaring while working out at home. It doesn’t have to stop there though. Say you have some of those home fitness dvd’s and are tired of loading the dvd non-stop. You could instruct Echo to start playing the file from your computer or mobile device and just listen to the audio of the workout instead of having to follow along on the video.

New apps coming

Better yet, with the constant updating, thanks to the cloud, fitness based apps may be the next creation that Echo will have available. These apps could have options of pre-programmed workout routines or give you the option to record your own workout and set it to music or a countdown timer should you be using a Tabata or HIIT protocol.

Amazon Echo Cord

Although the Echo is wireless, it is not battery operated, thus requiring you to keep it near an outlet to have a constant source of power.

Another great app idea that someone may come up with is to have the Amazon Echo record your workout log for you. No more paper, pencil, or getting out a lame smartphone in the gym – just have it log it and you can keep track later on – or ask it what you lifted last time and bump up the weight when you’re ready!

In the end, the applications for a hands-free, cloud-centered device are endless, and if Amazon keeps diligently modifying and updating Echo’s repositories and capabilities, you could very much be living in a household similar to what the Jetson’s enjoyed during their hey-day on TV.

Early Reviews

Echo has already made the rounds of beta-testing to mostly positive reviews. The main detractors as of right now seem to lie in its limited accessibility to a variety of services. It wokrs well with weather and Wikipedia, but doesn’t seem to interface well with Google, Bing, or other noteworthy search engines. Additionally, several users have knocked it for not having a battery option, thus requiring that Echo be plugged into an outlet somewhere. While this does limit its portability, you won’t have to worry about having to recharge it every night or when you’re not at home.

Echo first and foremost is a wireless speaker, and most reviewers give it high marks for it’s crystal clear audio playback, especially on the “high end” and just enough bass, but not overwhelmingly so. Furthermore, users have reported that its voice-recognition capabilities are top notch and also praise it’s sleek design.

Takeaway

Amazon Echo Remote

Echo’s remote has a microphone built in, so you can speak quietly into it when wanting to lower the volume on the speakers instead of shouting over a crowd.

The Amazon Echo is prime for the picking in terms of unlocking a truly untapped resource in the fitness/home management market. Amazon has created a $100 million dollar fund[2] to entice developers, start-ups, and manufacturers, both big and small to start creating additional content, apps, and capabilities for it hands-free device.

The future for Echo is bright, all it needs is some motivated companies and individuals to take advantage of its untapped potential and create the versatile all-in-one device that it can truly become.

Stay tuned next week for another edition of Tech Thursdays!

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References

  1. Echo Product Page
  2. http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=2062558
Posted in by Robert | Tagged .

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