Three years ago, in the US, Amazon first unveiled a voice-activated speaker called Echo, a 20-cm high cylinder that came with a smart voice assistant, Alexa. You could speak your music choice to her — and control operations around the home. The caveat was, other gadgets needed to understand Alexa. Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana, and the Google Voice Assistant were other intelligent assistants you could speak to — but only Amazon thought to move the technology from phone to home.
Finally, a trio of Echo voice-controlled speakers have reached India and Alexa meanwhile has learnt Hinglish and Indian accents. Her vocabulary embraces desi priorities like cricket scores, Lata Mangeshkar, Bharatanatyam, and Biryani.
Amazon Echo (Rs 9,999) listens all around and when Alexa responds, her voice or your music is carried by 360-degree omnidirectional speakers. It connects via Bluetooth to your music players — but that's it. If you want to control other home items, you need the Echo Plus ( Rs 14,999) which has a smart hub. The Echo Dot is a small Rs 4,499 device that extends the range to other rooms.
One day perhaps, Alexa can control your fridge and washing machine and air conditioner or baby alarm. For that to happen, various makers must come on board. For starters, Philips and Syska lighting have — and if you buy one of their smart bulbs, Alexa will control the brightness and the colour. You can also set alarms, wake up calls or ask Alexa how the weather is. So right now, Amazon Echo is a vision of the future and as far as apps go, a work in progress. Me? I've fallen for a smart lady who is ready and willing serve and seems to say "Meri awaz suno!