The only problem with Star Trek that I have is that the future got here way before they said it would.

I embrace my robot overlords

Amazon Echo 2.0

Hello, Echo

Here’s the thing. I’m on Facebook, do 90% of my shopping on Amazon, and work for the Government. I gave up the assumption of privacy a decade ago, so why not benefit from Big Brother?

The first player to the game was Amazon with their original, rather pricey, Echo. It wasn’t the reviews that won me over, nor the marketing campaign. What drove my adoption was necessity. My wife has very, very, poor night vision, and rather than risk her injuring herself stumbling in the dark, she could illuminate her surroundings just by saying, “Alexa, turn on bedroom.” Granted, I had to match up my Echo with some other home automation devices, but the investment instantly paid off when she knew that she could arrive at any room in our house without fear.

I’m going to do a separate article on the TP-Link gear that I outfitted the rest of my house with, but as of today, I have smart light bulbs or outlets in my bedroom, office, den, living room, and Mandy’s office. She can turn on lights using voice commands, I can schedule lights to come on or turn off, that schedule can be randomized when we’re away from the house, and all of them monitor my power usage. I know know it costs $4 to run my LED lightbulb in my living room calculated on average usage for a full year? FASCINATING! Again, I’ll talk about TP-Link gear later. Now, back to the Echo.

One Echo ended up not being enough. I have a two story, four bedroom, two and a half bath house, which is plenty big enough to deflect sound and prevent the Echo in my Kitchen from hearing me yell at it from the downstairs garage.

Enter the Echo Dot.

Echo Dot

Fifty Bucks Ain’t Bad

The original Echo was actually over engineered. It’s a great speaker for music, but if you just need an assistant or a home voice control, the much cheaper Echo Dot is all you need. If you were lucky, you picked one up on Black Friday for 30 bucks. Or ideally, six. It’s roughly the size of a hockey puck, can generally hear you over most TV shows, and does all the things the much more expensive Echo does.

That’s the trick of it you see. For some reason, Amazon has decided that Apple’s policy of forcing you to buy all new hardware in order to benefit from the most minor software tweaks is dumb. I for one agree! Every software update that has ever been released for the Echo has been released to ALL Echos, even my original model. It still looks good, it still sounds good, the little Dots work great, and every single day they get more and more useful.

This is particularly true in the kitchen for some reason. You can just say, “Alexa, set Turkey for two hours” and she’ll say “Turkey for two hours,” and then you can say “Alexa, set Dressing for twenty minutes,” and so on, and so forth. Your Alexa can keep track of an infinite amount of concurrent timers, and she’ll tell you which timer is going off when they go. SO USEFUL!

Soon I realized I could control my Amazon Fire Stick, make intercom calls across the house, and make sure my garage door was down.

Yeah, but surely the other smart homes can do that too!

Yeah, probably. Check out Big Tommy’s review of the Google Airbuds to get an idea of what Google Home can do. The Apple Home Pod can’t do jack for you, mostly because it’s been delayed again to mid-2018. Amazon got my business because they were first, and they got it right out of the gate. I’m usually a Google Fanboy, so I encourage you to investigate that if you think it’s better. For certain, the Google Assistant is much better at conducting Google Searches for you. However, if my Nexus 6 is any comparison, Google sucks as a voice activated timer, who knows. Find the right tool, you’ll appreciate it.

The neat thing about the Echo line is the diversity of options. It all really depends on your comfort level. I am comfortable having a device listening to me, but my brain can’t quite make the jump to video. The Echo Show and Echo Spot add good looking screens to the Echo line, but with them, cameras. I don’t know why I’m hypocritical on this front, I just am. My wife and I both have smart phones, and she has a MacBook Pro, so it’s not like we don’t already have them. Honestly, assuming I can yell at the thing to show me recipes, the kitchen seems like a pretty safe place to put one.

What’s funny is that the thing can be used to do video chat. The ultimate form of Star Trek communication, and also the one that seems least effective in the real world. I don’t want to look at you when we’re on the phone. Hell, I don’t even want to be on the phone. Maybe this is where Gene Roddenberry should have drawn the line.

Don’t believe me? Here’s an example:

Posted by Damien

Big Guy Damien is a creative communications professional, who really likes starting projects. He has a dog named Mr. Buttons, who you will see featured from time to time.

8 Comments

  1. Very nice. I can’t wait until the TP-Link automation write-up. I have a mishmash of things that keep alerting so much that we just ignore them now. I need to revamp. As far as the echo vs the Google Home. I almost bought an echo when it first came out, but I’m just not as integrated into the Amazon echo system as I am Google’s. Yeah, I buy a good portion of my stuff from Amazon, but everything else is google (music, movies, search history, etc). I also am a little peeved at the fighting between the two — You get Amazon Prime video, wait no you don’t! You get YouTube. Wait. No you dont! I do love being able to say “Hey Google, I’m feeling a lot like christmas” to turn on all of our lights and stuff this time of year though!

    Reply

    1. You won’t have to wait long! It’s scheduled for Thursday. Plus, I decided to whip out my camera and take some sample shots of my own this time. STAY TUNED!

      Reply

    2. Also, I’ll admit, I went Chromecast when it came out. Now we have a mix of it, Fire Stick and Roku, combined with the fact that my Sony TV runs on Android. My entertainment center is a psychopath.

      Reply

      1. Hehe. I finally got access to the little bit of Amazon Prime video that I do watch with the Nvidia Shield. I haven’t tried the Fire Sticks, but we got the boys a Roku TV last year for Christmas. It seems nice.

        Reply

        1. The Roku is great at everything except YouTube! Although, I may either blame my Sony TV or that garbage Monster HDMI cable that connects them. I frequently get HDCP copyright protection that purples out my screen, so I only get audio. Thankfully, I can just hop ports to my Chromecast, but it is annoying.

          Reply

          1. It’s amazing how we’ve gone from mostly simple TV setups to hybrid monstrosities that require too much effort at times… and we’re OK with it! I know my wife gets frustrated when it doesn’t “just work” sometimes though.

  2. […] NextBig Guy on Home Automation: Amazon Echo […]

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  3. […] story begins with the Amazon Echo. Go read that other story for a review about those. This story is about how I elevated that useful […]

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