When first presented with the idea for Amazon Echo, Amazon Executive David Limp was understandably worried. The concept of a device that would connect its owner to everything and do anything asked of it, including ordering food, connecting to and reading things off the internet, playing music and even controlling various items around the house, all by being asked, must have seemed monumental and best and Sisyphean at worst. One of the biggest concerns for this relatively small, round device was that of the time it would take to transmit a voice command into an action.
The team responsible for Echo created a goal of two seconds between command and action. CEO Jeff Bezos had other ideas and told them their goal was second. The team eventually succeeded, after probably a great deal of panic, to bring it down to 1.5 seconds. This led to the next issue, of the need for a virtual assistant. While other somewhat similar applications, such as Siri and Voice Search, utilized a screen for users to interact with, Echo had no screen. The creation of a virtual assistant was created through trial and error of painstaking research on what kinds of phrases worked in order to be both accurate and keep to response times.
This virtual assistant, based on the idea of the computer in Star Trek largely, came to be called Alexa. This is from another round of trial and error to find a name that was distinct enough when said to register with the device, and, also, cheekily a bit after the famed Library of Alexandria which was considered the seat of all knowledge and held thousands of books and manuscripts in the ancient world. While the technical aspects were being handled on one side, there was also the question of how to market this new device.
Leading with music seemed obvious but they wanted to go beyond that. This is why, apart from the many varied and sundry features and tasks Echo can perform, a highlight of their commercials is always music. In fact, music leads the commercials most often, while also having the device being asked to do other things afterward.
Finally, the device was created, finalized, marketed and became very popular with actors such as Alec Baldwin featuring in entertaining commercials. But has this new device exactly done for our lives? Amazon Echo is the latest in an ongoing attempt to be at once more connected and also freer to go and do whatever we want whenever we want. We started with phones in our homes, then created mobile phones, then made mobile phones capable of connecting to the internet and then gave those devices the ability to be commanded by our speech. One simply has to turn on voice recognition and then can be free to use their hands for other things while still using their phone. Amazon Echo is the newest advancement in this area. Now, we can be doing things around the house, totally free from tethering of any kind, and if we think of something or we want music on or just really, really want a pizza from that one place down the road, we can yell out to Alexa and she takes care of it for us. We have exchanged our freedom to wander with the ability to do things for ourselves.
With a simple order, Alexa jumps to the occasion and takes care of whatever it is. Adding items to to-do lists, ordering food, turning the thermostat up, anything.Through Amazon Echo, which is truly an impressive device, we have managed to become both free and totally dependent.