Voice controlled technology has been around for a long time. In fact, I’m sure many of you have fond memories of trying, yet never quite succeeding, to get old cell phones to call people using voice controls.
“No, call Mom”,
However, since then, voice technology such as Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant has moved on to the point where it can not only accurately hear what you are saying but can also do a whole range of complex tasks.
If you have ever wondered how your Amazon Echo actually works, then please read on.
What Is An Amazon Echo, And How Does It Work?
Amazon Echo is essentially a Bluetooth speaker with Amazon’s voice controlled personal assistant technology Alexa built into the device. It is the bigger brother of the Amazon Dot, another similar yet smaller and less powerful device.
Both the Echo and the Dot connect to the internet which means that through simply asking it questions, the device will be able to help you with a range of tasks.
While many people will be familiar with voice technology on their phones, such as Apple’s Siri and Google Voice, the Amazon Echo is different in that it is a device specifically built for use with voice technology.
Technology Inside An Echo
Your Echo improves upon the technology found in your phone as it has seven always-on microphones that are constantly listening out for your instructions.
These microphones contain noise canceling technology and can be used from far away. This means that even if you are watching TV on the other side of the room from your Echo, it should have no problem hearing you when you use your wake word.
One interesting thing you can do is connect multiple Echos and Dots in the various rooms throughout your home (and other speakers). This way, no matter where you are in your home you will always have your helpful assistant ready to answer your questions.
Talking of wake words. There are currently four options that you can use to wake up your Echo. These words are Alexa, Amazon, Echo, and the recently added wake word, Computer.
As soon as you say one of these words you Echo will listen out for any instructions that you want to give it. Because of this, it is probably best to stick with one of the first three words as you don’t want to wake up your device every time you talk about computers!
Is My Echo Spying On Me?
One problem is that a lot of people worry about these always-on microphones. What if they are listening to private conversations? Or when you’re doing phone banking? Or when you are in the bedroom?
Well for those of you that worry about this kind of thing, there is some good news and some bad news.
Your Echo does listen to everything that is said around it. This listening is required so that it can hear you when you say your Alexa wake up word. The good news, however, is that your conversations aren’t actually stored or sent anywhere by your Echo until you actually wake it up.
At this point, everything you say will be sent to a server to be processed by Amazon. This data is encrypted so it would be very hard for someone else to read these messages. As well as this, all these stored requests can be deleted online if you choose.
If you really want to be safe, it is also possible to simply turn the listening feature of your Alexa off when you know you won’t be using it. You can do this by simply pressing the button on your Echo that shows a microphone with a line through it. You will know it is off as the light on your Echo will turn orange.
What Is Alexa, What Does She Do?
While the Amazon Echo and its inbuilt microphones are no doubt impressive, the real technology, the thing that makes the Amazon Echo really powerful, is the Alexa personal assistant technology.
Everything you say to your Echo is processed by Alexa and the Alexa Voice Services. This service then tries to figure out exactly what to do with the command you have sent.
Once it has figured this out, Alexa Voice Services will send the voice message to your Echo who will be able to reply to you as if you are having a real conversation.
Another thing to remember is that the more you use your Alexa, the better it will get. It will start to adapt to your accent and your individual speech patterns so that it can understand more and more of what you say.
It is even possible to specifically train Alexa to get better at understanding your voice by doing the voice training sessions. This can be accessed through your Alexa app and is basically designed to ensure that your Alexa is as accurate as possible.
Top Services That Work With Echo And Alexa
The most obvious thing that your Echo does, given that it literally is a portable speaker, is play music. In fact, it works with a number of streaming services including those run by Amazon such as Amazon Music Unlimited and Prime Music, as well as third-party apps such as Spotify and Pandora.
If music isn’t your thing or if you just want a change, then it is also possible to stream your favorite radio stations with iHeartRadio or have your favorite books read to you by Audible.
If you have an Echo but want to listen to your music on a higher quality speaker, it is possible to connect your Echo to a Bluetooth speaker. This way, you will get all the benefits of your Amazon Echo with the added benefit of higher quality sound.
Answer Your Questions
Your Echo’s uses certainly don’t stop at music, however. As it is constantly connected to the internet you can ask it various questions on a pretty impressive range of topics and it will search the internet to help provide you with an answer.
Want to know tomorrow's local weather forecast? You could ask:?
“What's the weather going to be like tomorrow?”
Watching Batman but can’t remember who is behind the mask? Then why not ask your Alexa:
“Who starred in the movie Batman?”
Need to know when your team is playing next? Then why not ask:
“When do the Yankees play their next game?”
While these are just two examples of questions you can ask your Alexa, they should provide you with a good idea about the many types of questions you can ask.
There are also plenty of things that Alexa can do to help make your life easier. These include: setting an alarm using voice controls, doing fun quizzes with your friends, and even ordering services through Pizza Hut, Amazon, and Uber.
One thing that is worth remembering is that as time goes on, the technology improves, and more and more companies want to get involved, the number of things you will be able to do with your Alexa will start to skyrocket.
Many companies such as Amazon, Google, and Apple are really starting to push voice technology so it is only reasonable to expect that the number of uses you will be able to get from voice technology will start to increase.
Amazon Echo is a big step forward when it comes to voice control technology. It’s always on microphones (which can be disabled) and integration with third-party apps means that there really are a ton of things that you can do using just your Echo and your voice.
The whole technology has been streamlined. Due to its microphone technology and the Alexa Voice Service you will likely notice a big difference between the voice control on your Echo and the voice technology on the latest phones from even just a couple of years ago.
As the technology continues to improve, so will the number of things you can do with Alexa!
Hopefully, you have enjoyed this article. As always, if you have any questions please ask in the comments section.