Amazon Echo Auto 2018

So Amazon dropped a lot of new hardware on us this week. Check out the 10 minute wrap-up video by CNET if you haven’t seen it yet. My first “Must have” moment was with the Echo Auto, a small in-car device that looks like a smile and a wink from the top and has Alexa inside.

Amazon echo car smilesAs I regularly commute for about an hour and a half, I spent a lot of time on the road. My absolute favourite thing to do is listen to audible books. Often inspiring books read by professional voice actors that fill me with ideas. When I’m at home those ideas can be quickly captured by saying: “Alexa, add something to my ideas list”. Currently when I’m in the car I have to either:

a. fumble around with with my phone while I drive (illegal and dangerous),

b. wait till I’m home (and have forgotten the idea) or

c. use Siri and get annoyed by how bad my English apparently is.

This will for sure fuel a whole bunch of new skill ideas like the traffic netherlands skill I have been working on recently. Amazon announced that the echo auto devices will become location aware and will support location based requests as well. As far as I can see none of this will work in the Netherlands soon, as currently the request for the nearest Starbucks gets me a result of over 100 Km away in the Belgian city of Antwerp.

Skype for Alexa

During the event they announcement that Amazon and Microsoft are buddying up. It’s exciting to hear that Alexa and Cortana get to whisper in each others ears. Being able to make Skype calls via Alexa, is great news. I think that the strength of the Echo has been it’s openness and willingness to interact with other vendors’ system. The call function of Alexa is great but pretty limited to actual people you can call with it. Skype is one of the most used messaging systems out there so letting me make phone calls from the car sounds like a great new feature. However…

I don’t think I have ever experience a more visceral hatred for an inanimate object, than when I try to make my car (expensive luxery sedan) do something as simple as: “call Nicolle” and have it return with: “Calling John Clay”. The fact that it doesn’t work is not even the issue here. The fact that it works one minute, and stops the next…. That sets me on fire like nothing else. So I will put the bar for this device pretty high. As I have yet to experience a decent voice function in any car. When I get my hands on the Echo Auto device ($49), I will let you know if it lives up to its reputation.