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Thread: Amazon Echo devices launched in the UK

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    Amazon Echo devices launched in the UK

    Both the Echo and Echo Dot are pre-orderable. Alexa has gained an English accent.
    Read more.

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    Re: Amazon Echo devices launched in the UK

    Seems like a nice idea for those with connected homes but seeing as though I don't have a single smart appliance (not even a TV) due to a limited budget and a two year old who'll break them its not something I'd invest in despite having prime.

    Quick question to hexusites with bigger budgets - Is home automation worth bothering with or are automated lights/thermostats etc just a gimick?
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    Re: Amazon Echo devices launched in the UK

    Quote Originally Posted by cheesemp View Post
    Seems like a nice idea for those with connected homes but seeing as though I don't have a single smart appliance (not even a TV) due to a limited budget and a two year old who'll break them its not something I'd invest in despite having prime.

    Quick question to hexusites with bigger budgets - Is home automation worth bothering with or are automated lights/thermostats etc just a gimick?
    I've had the budget for Smart appliances, but still didn't think they were particularly good value. I liked the look of the Nest, but I can't imagine using the extra features after the novelty period has worn off. My thermostat works fine, I can set it on a timer and adjust temperatures and the turn of a dial. It's getting on for 10 years old but it's still wireless and works fine.

    The IoT lights seem nice, but I've got 30 years under my belt of just using light bulbs, and they still work fine. I can get a nice crate of beer for the price of a single bulb that will most likely be set to "standard" white and turned on at the wall anyway. And you can't just get one, and once you get past a couple of units you start looking like an amateur mobile disco outfit from the examples I've seen.

    I do have a smart TV, I find the "Smart" bits to be stupid (I refuse to use them) and just have a FireTV with Kodi plugged in to it instead.


    I don't feel like I'll ever be convinced by the "Smart home" concept.

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    Re: Amazon Echo devices launched in the UK

    A lot of smart home stuff is too orientated around San Francisco/Silicon Valley mindset and the people who live there. It doesn't translate well outside of those areas.

    Now the Amazon Echo is useful but again depends on your usage patterns and how deep into the digital economy you are.

    Also interesting after all the hysteria around xbox one kinect a few years back people are buying devices that listen for your every word, MS was ahead of the curve just didn't know how to sell it.

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    Re: Amazon Echo devices launched in the UK

    I for one am really happy to see this finally come through to the UK, and I have pre-ordered a few - 1 echo and 2 echo dots. I am planning to put 1 in the kitchen, lounge and bedroom. Actually considering another for my office but i'll see how I get on with it first

    I currently have a number of smart home gadgets - thermostat, kettle, lights, and power sockets, and i'll be using it for voice control of all of these by the end of the year. Unfortunately none of my gadgets are supported out of the box yet (since half of them i've cobbled together myself with z-wave components) but the beauty of Echo over similar systems (Siri/GoogleHome for example) is that there is a nice open API available, and even without that there is IFTTT support which will let me do everything i need anyway, without writing a single line of code. The IFTTT support is probably the biggest boon really as that enables a huge amount of integration into digital life, outside of just home automation.

    I am also a prime subscriber so make extensive use of prime music, and it's a big selling point to be able to use that truly hands free without having to pair my phone to my speakers each time I want to use it.

    It's not for everyone, but as a geek who loves gadgets and is a big fan of the "Smart Home" concept, it's a brilliant device. We also know that there are more and more features coming to the UK version of echo (The US has over 1000 already) - so the possibilities are great. Can't wait - most exciting gadget of the year for me imo.

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    Re: Amazon Echo devices launched in the UK

    This news just came in: The BMW Connected personal digital mobility assistant will be available via an Alexa skill on all Alexa-enabled devices when the service is available in the U.K and Germany. PR Link

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    Re: Amazon Echo devices launched in the UK

    I don't really get it....

    I mean that example "Alexa, open just eat and repeat my last order". Never ever have I wanted to do that. If I did want to order take out, would I rather have her slowly voice a menu, or pull out my phone?!

    I just don't see this is as an easy form of HCI, in fact it reminds me of why people switched to browsers to book movie tickets. "If you want to order Pizza, Press 1, if you want to Order Indian Curry Press 2. You have selected #, the police are on their way".

    As for my existing smart home stuff, lights are the only thing I use often and I can already "Hey Cortana, lights for movie mode".
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    Re: Amazon Echo devices launched in the UK

    A lot if it is based on use case. When the dominos skill comes to the UK for example, I personally only ever order 1 kind of pizza and very specific sides - so its easy to do and I don't need to go through the menu etc. Same for the very rare occasions I risk my life with JustEat - I am pretty predictable..The way they work is you setup an order on the app, can then can place that order with a single phrase (and confirmation). No need to go back to the old fashioned listing out a menu type action.

    Thats a big part of this - it's great for simple actions that you pre-configure using your phone once, and then can call upon from anywhere in the house without needing to pull out your phone, or exit your game on your ipad etc.

    At launch it will be fairly basic and it was in the US - it only really took off when enough 3rd parties signed up to make apps for it. Just like any new gadget/interface really. Voice control has come a long way in the past few years, and the "at home" use case is perfect for it in many ways. Most of us hate using voice controls in public - I never talk to my watch/phone at the office or on the street. At home though, I regularly use my watch to set reminders/take notes/check a conversion/build a shopping list. Moving from that to a more general "anywhere at home" type experience is a nice logical next step.

    I guess we'll see how it goes - its definitely not for everyone, but the use case is there

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    Re: Amazon Echo devices launched in the UK

    A step into a futuristic home like in the movies! But since not many people have the implementations to utilise the Echo, it's still a long way to go. Personally I think it's still more of a hassle to command the Echo, rather I'd do it myself!

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    Re: Amazon Echo devices launched in the UK

    I have just preordered one but i have samsung smartthings at home and with a logitech hub, can now control tv etc via voice. Will be interesting to see how it all works together.

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    Re: Amazon Echo devices launched in the UK

    Hmmm.

    This sets up a conflict in me, though that might surprise regulars who've seen my comments on, for example, smart phones.

    Firstly, I have no issues with voice control. I use it on my current (standalone) SatNav and it works really well. Also, I've been using Dragon Dictate for, oh, probably 15+ years and certainly for the last version or two (that I have) it's good enough to be very useful to me.

    So, I have no issues with that part of the concept.

    But the conflict starts with "cloud-connected".

    I would need a huge, and I mean utterly gargantuan, amount of convincing to allow devices in most/all rooms of my home with net-connected always-on microphones. After all, it cannot possibly work as well as those slick videos portray unlsss both the microphones are very good and noise cancelling very effective, in order to rapidly and accurately understand what you asked/instructed "Alexa".

    Can you change that trigger, by the way? What about people whose wife, sister, daughter etc is called Alexa?

    Anyway, back on point. If it can hear, grunge-remove and analyse your verbal instructions well enough to implement them, then it can understand everything else said in the house well enough to be a phenomenal data acquisition device and in terms of personal privacy, Armageddon, and End of Days.

    And yes, I know it's only listening after you trigger it with "Alexa". Apparently. Allegedly. According to Amazon. And yes, Amazon have (with me, anyway) a better reputation than the Spawn of Satan that is known in this plane of existence as Google. But they're still a vast corporate, and all that really means is they have a far better PR department.

    Someone mentioned Xbox Kinect. I have not and abso.utely will not ever buy a Kinect unless I can physically guarantee it is ONLY monitoring when I'm actually using it. That really means physical disconnection because, let's fqce it, I don't trust MS, their motives or their word. Maybe you can disconnect Kinect now. I stopped bothering to look ages ago. And Kinect is one device in one room. I'm certainly not planting Anazon bugging devices in every room, and buying them in order to do so, in the absence of sufficiently convincing guarantees about privacy.

    So then, even if Amazon can jump that hurdle and convince me, what it comes down to is whether the benefits offered by Echo/"Alexa" justify the cost? And for me, that's highly dubious.

    I do have a SmartTV, but knowing several manufacturers got caught snooping, at least on viewers habits, I don't use it. Moreover, it has no net connection. I neither have nor want Smart kettles, fridges, thermostats, etc. And there are NO CIRCUMSTANCES WHATEVER under which I want my computers, let alone my fridge or even Echo/Alexa, ordering or re-ordering groceries, household items or calling me a cab.

    I have multiple wireless thermostats and a programmable heating/hot water system, but they are simple, dumb programmable devices, and they suit my needs perfectly. I do have some remote-control lights, but essentially, that's just for remote on/off and dimming, and both the wife and I have remotes. They are wifi devices, IF I indulged a tenner ot do in a wifi bridge. I don't see the point, so haven't.

    I also don't remember the last time I ordered out for a takeaway. Years, certainly. Generally, that's an excellent way to get half-cold and moderate to poor quality food, and over-priced at that. Order in Pizza? Like hell. I'll make it myself or, at a pinch, nearly always have a "customised" frozen one or two. My local supermarket makes them up with our choice of toppings, and we often buy three at a time, then eat one, freeze two. By the time we've ordered from a shop and waited for delivery, I can get one out of the freezer, defrost it, get the pizza stone hot, and cook it myself. We end up with a pizza we actually prefer, and it costs us about £3 instead of £15. Much the same applies to knocking up a quick Chinese, though I have to pre-plan for fried rice, or Indian curry, etc.

    Oh, and I've yet to use or need Uber. As far as I know, they aren't operating here anyway.

    As for music, generally if I want music it's to actually listen to, it's sat down in front of my audio system with one of my CDs or, yes, LPs. If I want "background", it's either in the kitchen while cooking, or laying on the bed nursing a headache. In either case, it's "chat" I wamt, not music, and that's solved by a Pure DAB/FM radio in each, with one-button selection of Radio 4, my local BBC station and a couple of others. So I don't need Echo for that either.

    All told, even if I got over the privacy issues, those above saying it's about lifestyles and usage are right. While no doubt some people wil love this, I really can't see the point for us (* see note) and, at the moment, the benefits don't justify the cost.


    * Note. I have some eyesight issues and the time might come where being able to do mundane things like control, lights, thermostat, whatever, by voice-controlled remote, might be justified. I certainly see the possibility. But not right now.

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    Re: Amazon Echo devices launched in the UK

    I have one on pre order - if I like the core device then I'll possibly look s a few of the minis.
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    Re: Amazon Echo devices launched in the UK

    Quote Originally Posted by Saracen View Post
    Can you change that trigger, by the way? What about people whose wife, sister, daughter etc is called Alexa?

    Anyway, back on point. If it can hear, grunge-remove and analyse your verbal instructions well enough to implement them, then it can understand everything else said in the house well enough to be a phenomenal data acquisition device and in terms of personal privacy, Armageddon, and End of Days.
    The trigger can be changed - currently only to "Amazon" or "Echo", but that is expected to change in the future (you can "hack" it to change it to anything - but it's less reliable) as i understand it.

    The limited number of wake words is related to the privacy issue really. The way it works is that the echo has all of the voice recognition functionality built in locally to the device to detect those 3 wake words, and those words only. It is constantly listening 24/7 but it's only capable of listening in real time to those 3 words. Once it picks up the "wake" word, it will record the rest of what you say and then send that off to AWS to be processed by AVS, rather than trying to do it locally. "OK Google" works in a very similar way.

    This is a bit different to the Samsung issue you mentioned or even Kinect, which are listening to everything all of the time.

    It then comes back to how much you trust Amazon. A number of journalists/techies etc have monitored the data output from their echos to confirm that it works in the way I have desribed (and so far, so good). It doesn't mean the potential isn't there of course, if GCHQ or a LEA decided to wade in..but if we ever get to that point I think there are bigger things to worry about

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    Re: Amazon Echo devices launched in the UK

    Quote Originally Posted by Spud1 View Post
    This is a bit different to the Samsung issue you mentioned or even Kinect, which are listening to everything all of the time
    Errr no the Kinect isn't.

    Rather if it is, it's using some burst technology with very clever compression. I thought everyone used the same broadcom lower power chip to do this anyway....

    Also I just can't understand the "fiction reduction" that is to be found from saying "echo, order me that food I had yesterday because I'm so boring" compared to asking your phone for this exact task. I just don't get this at all. The effort of opening the door for the take away and eating it is higher than the friction of a smartphone app.

    I can get the idea for things like lights or music, which are room centric. I have to tell my phone which room I'm in to change the lights, I cheat with some concepts, movie mode meaning the living room, night time meaning the bedroom etc. I could see that advantage.
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    Re: Amazon Echo devices launched in the UK

    Thanks for that, Spud.

    On the "trigger", my prefrrence would be for it to be user-selectable, but that does of coyrse then rely on the user having the nous to avoid words that could result in an accidental trigger, which means avoiding common names and any words in common usage. So you could perhaps name it "Slarty Bartfast" with reasonable confidence of avouding accidental triggers, but then, it's a right gobful just to order a pizza or get a weather report.

    Were I Amazon, I would also be keen to avoid allowing any user-selectable trigger phrase the use of which would risk adverse reflections on Amazon, or some wag that thinks they're funnier than they really are would set it to "Trump, you a-hole" or "Oi, FartFace", or sundry explicit variations thereof, and no doubt, sooner or later one would end up in a news report.

    As for the point processing is done, and what's :-

    1) listened for,
    2) recorded,
    3) trahsmitted to "base"
    4) processed for action, and possibly
    5) retained for dsta warehousing, analysis, aggregation and future use ....

    ....yes, it's entirely a matter of trust. Mine, sadly, is a bit limited of large corpiestes.

    It's the same reservation I have over Win10. Or rather, one of them.

    Using what mechnism, and under whose control, do device firmware/software uodates occur?

    One of my issues with Win10 is that as long as MS can force updates with (most) users unable to prevent them other than marginal deferments, and as long as the licence signs users up to agreeing to that, then MS can change minor or even major aspects of Win10 functionality and users have almost no say at all in that. If Amazon can remote upgrade Echo, then even if the "trigger phrase only" principle really is how it worjs righf now, Amazon could change that at will.

    Were I trying to market this, I certainly wouldn't seek, at this point, to record/transmit everything, precisely because farioys engineers and journalists would be looking for privacy issues. So I'd do it exactly as you describe Amazon as having implemented it. Anything else would probably be a death sentence for it before it ever got going.

    However .... in a year or two, or version 2 or 3, once people are used to it, invested in it, relying on it then I'd fently increase the snooping asoects, probably masked by the release of some new service for which a bit more data was plausibly required in case some awkward journalist or researcher noticed and shrieked loudly enough.

    Do I trust even Amazon, who seem better than most, that much? Frsnkly, I don't think so. Not for the benefits I see for me, though clearly, others will get more benefit mileage.

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    Re: Amazon Echo devices launched in the UK

    Fair point TheAnimus - it was an assumption on my part with kinect just due to how I interact with it (When it can hear me). Seems it may do something similar to Amazon then.

    As for an Echo type device vs a phone (or watch) - I don't carry my phone around with me, and the microphone isn't good enough to hear me from the other side of the room. I also don't have "constant listening" enabled as it badly affects the battery life. I assume you are using Cortana as thats the only other "personal assistant" I know of that can do the dominos thing for example, which then needs a Windows phone for the "constant listening" to work properly (on Android at least, I need the app open to be able to interact with it). I don't plan on ever going back to a Windows Phone in the near future

    Taking away the need to carry a phone for this and making it more natural is a draw for me. Like I said it probably isn't for everyone and if you want to do the same via cortana..great

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