- Jim Rossman The Dallas Morning News
Did you get a new Amazon Echo for Christmas? I think almost everyone did.
According to Amazon, their most popular item this Christmas season was the Echo Dot, which had its price lowered to $30.
If you’ve never used an Echo before, prepare to be entertained a bit. Talking to Alexa can be fun — especially for kids. I have a great-niece who is 3 years old and she just loves asking Alexa to sing songs for her. (She’ll sing Happy Birthday to you over and over).
It’s time to take it out of the box and set it up.
First, a note: If you don’t have Wi-Fi, you won’t be able to use the Echo.
You’ll need to download the Alexa app for your smartphone or tablet and sign into your Amazon account. You don’t have to be an Amazon Prime subscriber to use an Echo, but you’ll get more out of it if you are.
Then plug in the Echo, and Alexa will introduce herself and talk you through setup.
You’ll use the Alexa app to set up the Echo on your Wi-Fi network.
You’ll be presented with a list of available Wi-Fi networks. Pick your network and enter the Wi-Fi password, and the Alexa app will beam that information to the Echo.
Alexa will tell you when she’s connected and ready to go.
Out of the box the Echo’s wake word will be “Alexa,” but if that name is not to your liking, you can change the wake word to “Amazon,” “Echo” or even “Computer.”
The Echo is always listening for the wake word, but it isn’t recording everything you say. I know some people are worried about privacy.
When you say the wake word, the Echo’s top ring will light up blue to indicate it’s listening and recording what you say.
Your question is recorded and beamed to a server at Amazon for voice recognition and to process the answer.
The entire process takes a second or two.
If you have an Echo Dot, you can choose to set it up to an external speaker, either through Bluetooth or the aux-out jack.
Don’t forget about multiroom audio. You can put Echo devices in different rooms and any music you play will come out of all the Echoes at the same time.
The full-size Echo has a pretty good speaker, and it has been on sale for $70 lately. Three or more of these would make a fine whole-home audio system.
If you have the home automation hubs Wink, Samsung SmartThings or Philips Hue, you can use the Echo to set up voice control of your home.
Don’t forget, the new Echo Plus has a home automation hub built-in. If you want to get started with home automation, the Echo Plus ($149) would be a good place to start.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Jim Rossman writes for The Dallas Morning News. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.