In early November 2014, I wrote a blog post after reading about the cool new Amazon Echo digital household assistant, raving about what a great Christmas gift it would be. Well… that didn’t work out because you had to be “invited” to buy it — and at long last (and, of course, after Christmas), my official invitation arrived. (See it below, with the interesting questions and answers it contains about the device).
Although I’m still excited about it and January’s not a great time to make a $200 purchase (broke, broke, broke), I decided to scrounge up money somewhere and do it anyway — because the Echo looks like so much fun. (And the invitation stipulates you have just seven days to buy the product.)
If you have Amazon Prime membership (which is $99 a year), the Echo is only $99 (instead of $199). I called Amazon customer service and the helpful rep in the Echo department told me I could sign up again for a free Prime trial (which I was able to do, even though I’d taken advantage of the offer previously during 2013). Then I ordered the Echo, and it totalled $99. (It’s my understanding that I don’t even have to buy the Prime $99 membership after the trial period ends since you just have to be a Prime member when you order the device.) That was an unexpected boost to my finances.
Online ordering worked fine once I registered for the free trial — but the ship date for the Echo is May 21! Yikes!
Will let you know when it arrives and how it works! **I got it in July 2015 and love it! Here’s the scoop:
- 20 Things You Can Do with Amazon Echo — the Cool Digital Assistant and Music Player
- Amazon Echo: An Awesome Gift **
The invitation letter:
Dear Amazon Customer, We’re excited to offer you an invitation to purchase Amazon Echo. We hope you’ll have as much fun using it as we did inventing it. By accepting this invitation, you will be one of the first customers to use Echo, and we appreciate your input to help shape Echo as it evolves.To accept this invitation, go to the Amazon Echo page, add to cart, and purchase as usual. Due to strong customer response, new orders may take several months to ship. You will receive a delivery confirmation when your order is ready to ship.Thanks,The Amazon Echo TeamHow long is my invitation valid?
Due to the high number of requests, invitations expire after seven days.When will I get my Amazon Echo?
Once you’ve added Echo to your Shopping Cart and proceeded to checkout, you’ll see the estimated delivery date for your order. Due to high demand, new orders may take several months to ship. You will receive a delivery confirmation when your order is ready to ship.Can I get a second Echo? Can I help a friend who has requested an invitation get one now?
Unfortunately, not at this time. Due to customer response, we’ve been able to fulfill only a small portion of the invitations requested, and Echo is limited to one per customer.What music services can I listen to with Echo?
With Prime Music, Amazon Prime members can listen to over a million songs for free. You can also play music you’ve purchased or imported into your Amazon Music library. Plus, you can listen to thousands of radio stations and podcasts through iHeartRadio and TuneIn, and we will be adding more music services soon. You can also stream other music services to Echo from your phone or tablet via Bluetooth.What can I use as the wake word?
The default wake word is “Alexa” (our homage to the library of Alexandria). You can also change the wake word to “Amazon” in the settings section of the Echo companion app. We’ll be adding more wake words in the future.How does Echo recognize the wake word “Alexa?”
Echo uses on-device keyword spotting to detect the wake word, and the wake word only. When Echo detects the wake word, it lights up. Echo then uses the processing power of Amazon Web Services to recognize and respond to your request.Will Echo understand me all the time?
No, the state-of-the-art technology for computer understanding of natural language doesn’t yet enable understanding all the time—but because Echo’s brains are in the cloud, it will keep getting smarter.
What can’t Echo do yet?
How do I give feedback?
Do I have to charge Echo?
I’m a software developer, can I develop services for Echo?
What’s the first thing I should ask Echo?