Amazon Echo Show Review
Can Amazon’s voice controlled assistant, Alexa, be useful to your business? We enabled her skills to test her smarts and see just how advanced she is.
The presence of connected home or smart speaker devices entering the marketplace is starting to increase. You may have seen Google advertising their Home and Home Mini products, eschewing the ability to turn on the lights with a simple voice command. Whilst Google are the first in Australia to advertise their alternative, the original smart speaker was introduced by Amazon, with the release of their Echo device in 2015, and later with multiple variants.
In May 2017, Amazon released the Echo Show – a smart speaker which also has a 7 inch touchscreen display. It is the only device in the market that sports a visual display, and could result in competing companies releasing alternatives with a similar feature set.
Like the Echo, the Echo Show works with a whole bunch of third-party home automation devices. Its display capabilities means its usefulness increases when working with security cameras (e.g. Nest or Netgear Arlo) or door bells (e.g. Ring). On the entertainment front, it supports video calls, plays audio and video, for example, through Amazon’s Music and Prime services respectively.
Amazon’s range of smart speakers are yet to be released in Australia, although a release may be imminent to coincide with the company launching their marketplace here. However, we have been fortunate enough to get our hands on the device, and start discovering the possibilities of what devices like this can do for prospective clients.
Success will come down to the quality and usefulness of skills that are written for the device.The mini apps that a user will interact with on the Echo Show and other Amazon devices are called skills. Having briefly worked with the API to write skills, I found some limitations with the graphical interface exposed to developers. Whilst there appeared to be enough information about designing a voice-based interface, other observations I made in my time working with the API gave me the impression that Amazon’s framework for developing skills for the Echo Show’s visual interface is still a little immature. Also, given that the device has not been officially released in Australia, it was evident that the device felt very much to be US-centric.
I believe the success of the Echo Show ultimately will come down to the quality and usefulness of skills that are written for the device, and possibly a “killer app” written for a third party device (or devices) which takes advantage of the Echo Show in a truly useful manner. The removal of YouTube from the device following a dispute between Google and Amazon was a huge blow, as its capability as an entertainment device was reduced by this limitation. Thankfully for users, the video service has been reinstated following agreement between the two giants.
For us in Australia, it is likely that it is only a matter of time before Amazon’s range of smart speakers are released here, which will be an exciting period for both developers and end users.
Main image photo credit: Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Amazon-Echo-Show-Alexa-Enabled-Black/dp/B01J24C0TI
Body image photo credit: Amazon https://www.techhive.com/article/3233130/hubs-controllers/amazon-echo-show-review.html