back to article Amazon Echo: We put Jeff Bezos' always-on microphone-speaker in a Reg family home

So, um, I love the Amazon Echo. For those of you already frothing at the mouth in righteous indignation, please feel free to scroll to the bottom right away, click "Post a comment" and vent about privacy, Jeff Bezos' secret police, and whatever else is bothering. Meanwhile, for the rest of you, let's get straight to it: the …

Happy

Re: More customization desired in these voice powered assistants

What about the Orac version?

You: "Orac, what is the temperature outside" .

Echo (or similar device): "Go outside and find out for yourself, I'm busy!"

6
0
Silver badge

Re: More customization desired in these voice powered assistants

What about the Orac version?

Damn, you got this one in before me.

So if the device needs "fixing", do I need to develop Avon like skills and carry a combined tester, pen-kit and screwdriver in the sole of my boot?

4
0
Silver badge

Re: More customization desired in these voice powered assistants

Or the Avon version: "That's an interesting question. Can a vacuum be said to have a temperature at all, or do we just consider it to be de facto absolute zero. Tell you what, why don't you float around outside for a while and see if you can tell the difference. I would suggest a spacesuit, but of course that would interfere with the experiment, wouldn't it?"

2
0
Silver badge
Happy

Re: More customization desired in these voice powered assistants

"So if the device needs "fixing", do I need to develop Avon like skills and carry a combined tester, pen-kit and screwdriver in the sole of my boot?"

You don't already...? Get off to /. !!

0
0
Silver badge
Thumb Up

I have to admit that I've always thought the idea of 'Harriet' and 'Albert Einstein' from Larry Niven's Heechee series were rather cool. Unfortunately it doesn't sound like Echo is quite there yet :)

1
0
Chz

Missing a Channel 4/Humans tie-in opportunity.

"I'm sorry Laura, I'm afraid I don't understand the question."

3
0

Yes, yes, thats nice...

...but what the hell is it? What is it's purpose?

I'm so confused.

0
0

Incredibly useful?

One gadget to rule them all. Let's babble trivia. Gosh it can -- wait for it -- switch on the radio! It might be able to tell you where you can get a pizza, but try asking it where you can get a life.

6
0

Re: Incredibly useful?

I can see for many people this will be a useful device, but I ran through a typical day, then an untypical day, and considered my tinnitus, and thought: this doesn't do anything better than I can do now and with more privacy, and it is yet another source of sound, which I don't want. I am sure I'm in the minority.

0
0
Silver badge

"Assuming that the company is not bald-faced lying"

Well, there's your problem ...

3
1

Working

I want it to respond with "Working", followed by that weird undulating computer sound.

Although if it starts shouting "Redjack, redjack" at me I may run away.

2
0
Silver badge
Big Brother

How to avoid the privacy implications of Amazon's Echo

Just don't buy one. No one is forcing you, sheesh.

5
0
Bronze badge

Re: How to avoid the privacy implications of Amazon's Echo

I don't even want these fucking things around. Like secondhand smoke.

Same applies to phones and laptops with mics/cameras/networking you can't physically turn off. Sure we've got a few, mostly for testing, but we're backing away from consumer tech until the privacy/usability issues have been sorted.

3
2

Bit pricey in the UK currently...

So based on the Amazon RRP of $180, and today's exchange rate, and add VAT, and you're looking at £140. So to allow for currency fluctuations, it will probably retail for £150 if released in the UK.

Looking on Ebay, they're going for £230-240 for UK stock (i.e. it's already been imported). Even allowing for postage & VAT/import duty, that's quite a markup!

Apparently most things work reasonably well, although it helps to have a VPN to hide the fact that you're in the UK. I think it would get a huge amount of usage in our house, and I would be all over it like a shot if it wasn't quite so expensive currently! Hopefully Amazon UK will start selling it soon so I can put it on my Christmas list :)

0
0

Star Cops and Box

Shades of 'Box' in Star Cops (a 80's SciFi TV Cops). Box was a small prototype AI pocket computer, that could link or hack into all the other computers and acted as the stars secret sidekick.

The only real problem I can see with Siri, Cortana, Alexa or whatever, is that you can't use a trigger word of your own choosing or even change the voice\personality. I can do that with my SatNav. It just seems dumb that every device will respond to the same phrase in the same manner.

2
0
Happy

Re: Star Cops and Box

I want to go around to your house and snap: "Box - Maximum alarm!"

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Any hint of a UK release date? Looks like a few issues to work around (VPN, etc.) to use in the UK at moment otherwise...

0
0
Silver badge

Bah!

"Alexa, have the NSA installed the same software on you they probably have on my phone? You know, the one that turns the mic on even when the device is off."

2
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Bah!

No Sir. We, I mean THEY most definitely have not. Sir. Thank you for asking. Have a nice day now.

1
0

As the reviewer said, is is any worse than using Facebook and Siri to name just two very invasive technologies. They're cloud connected, they analyze to death, everything you give them in the hopes of of selling you some service or product. If I'm going to be analyzed by a company, at least I might as well know which one, and a department store is not the end of the world. Would I have one? Probably not as I'm not that bothered about the sort of services it offers, especially as this seems to offer solutions to problems no one really has and seems to be technology for the sake of it. Still I can imagine they'll be common place in most homes within 10 years.

0
0
Silver badge

Any worse? Isn't "just as bad" bad enough?

0
0
Anonymous Coward

This is a consumer product..

.. because I have seen just how well voice recognition works when you're in an office. When you're writing some involved material, the last thing you need is someone close to you waffling out loud.

We once had this when some sales guy wandered in and decided to use the tech hotdesks as the place to spend his time. It took all but two calls before we identified his number, and he spent the rest of his time cursing - the fax machine around the corner was trying to send him a blank sheet, a process which miraculously got restarted after the 10 try auto abort. Strange how that elevated the mood elsewhere :)

2
0
Silver badge

First Paragraph

You begin the article with a paragraph condemning readers for jumping to conclusions... when concluding that the device is an audio version of the telescreen from 1984 is precisely what the title of the article is aimed at provoking.

1
0

Some improvements that would nudge it into my purchase vision:

Ability to have it contact 911. If something happens and you can't reach the phone, just being able to say "911" to have it get help would be great.

Ability to have it listen while you're away for "odd" sounds. Like if you're at work and it hears the door opening and you know no one's at home, it would let you know there's something you might want to check at home.

In a related feature, have the ability to turn on the mic and listen when you're not at home.

1
0
Silver badge

I want one with Majel Barrett's voice, definitely.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Next time, try two of them.

I would have liked to see two of them, positioned so they pick up each other, and then give a command somewhere in the middle. Just to see what would happen :).

0
0

You said "speakers"

Does that mean it has two and plays stereo? Or was that a misprint?

1
0

Re: You said "speakers"

Separate woofer and tweeter, so two speakers but not stereo.

0
0
Go

Volume granularity

"volumes are not granular enough"

I suppose they could make it 1 to 100, but until that happens... the feature exists manually by turning the top of the device, which acts as a giant volume control. ;-)

2
0

Re: Volume granularity

good tip!

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Volume granularity

1 to 11, surely.

0
0
Thumb Down

Had one for six months

It doesn't get used anymore. Glad I only paid $99 as an early adopter. If I can get it to play Radio 2 when an alarm goes off, then it might have some use.

Spend your money on the new Apple TV instead.

0
0
Thumb Down

Meh

This sounds like a more annoying version of "Clippy".

0
0
Bronze badge

im suppose to go piss in a cup and drive a forklift around amazon on monday, its not going to happen

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Oblivious millenial

Oviously written by some trustfund kid who has been coddled by authorities all his life and knows only sustained hedonism and narcissism.

It is powerful, and we all know what power does to those in authority.

0
1

Love mine

As a brit abroad, I've really become quite enamored (yes, yes I know, US spellchecker) with the Echo. I loved that it was able to play all the CD's I'd bought off Amazon that came with autorip (about 90% of them) and with the amazon uploader thing, it let me upload the remaining 10% (mostly small release UK EDM). With the amazon prime membership, it's rare that it won't play a full song whenever it's asked. It took the echo about a week to understand my eldest son (~4.5 years old), and the adults it got pretty much on the first try. I picked up a couple of the Belkin WeMo switches and an Emerson thermostat which was compatible with it and it's worked nearly flawlessly with them. The iHeartRadio plugin is great, as it'll stream BBC Radio 4 quite happily without having the faff of VPNs to hit iPlayer.

When I first got one, I did do the tinfoil hat thing and watched the traffic it generated through the firewall, and (at least in this firmware release), it does seem only to broadcast back to the mothership when woken (and the data volume is small enough that it's only the content of the question, not the last 10 hours since the prior question - unless Amazon have *really* sophisticated compression).

Has anyone tried using one of these in the UK as yet? I've been debating getting my parents one for Christmas

1
0

Re: Love mine

Hmmm, it only has one speaker with two tiny drivers - how can it play anything?

0
0

WTF?

I already have to talk to people, sometimes shout, to get them to do something. Now - talk to a machine too?? No way. Machines only understand buttons and switches and the only good talking machine is a dead one.

1
0

"And what resulted over time is this:"

"distrust turned to uncertainty; uncertainty to excitement; excitement to disappointment; disappointment to acceptance; acceptance to affection."

Exactly the process of hostage conversion - right up to Stockholm Syndrome

2
0
Silver badge

Clearly tastes differ

But then that would defeat the great usefulness of the Echo: the ability to talk out loud and have it respond.

I'd call that "the great annoyance of the Echo".

I've had computers with speech synthesis since Vortrax-equipped 8-bitters in the mid-1980s, and speech recognition since OS/2 Warp. I've never felt any real desire to use either after a few minutes' exposure.

It actively improves your life. You can simply ask for things out loud and get the answer.

Perhaps this improves your life. I'd consider it an obnoxious and dreary interference.

But then I remember when finding things out could be an educational experience of serendipitous discovery, or an occasion for illuminating and affirming conversation with others, and not simply retrieving a pat answer from a search engine.

As for the applications mentioned in the article - no, I don't want to make any of those "easier" either, if I want to engage in them at all. (I don't give a rat's what StubHub thinks is "happening" this weekend. I know what's happening - I'll be spending time with my family, working on my house, maybe enjoying a little time out of doors.) The small effort I invest to participate provides half the value.

1
0

Thanks Kieren

I'm interested in the field so got one of the early units. Found it to be not all that useful. As one example, could not understand 'when is high tide?', no matter how much I tried to train it. You've given me some ideas, so I'll give it another go.

0
0

Page:

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Forums

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2018