I'd mentioned in previous videos that i'd look to get a home voice assistant at some point, and the day has finally come! We now have an Amazon Echo Dot. In this article and video, I run through the unboxing and setup process.
I think it's fair to say that these days, it's almost expected that if you have a smart home, you need to have a way to talk to it! How else are you going to boss it around?! With functionality in smartphones and PCs like Apple's Siri and Microsoft's Cortana, it does beg the question - why do you need a dedicated device?
Certainly, as i've found with Siri and Cortana, they can do a job - but I've struggled to see how they can do it particularly well, with too many restrictions in place to control things like smart lighting (see my previous articles on Siri and Cortana Philips Hue control).
However, a voice assistant that you can just command without needing a charged, ready smartphone nearby does potentially add convinience. Despite the presence of voice assistants on our Smartphones, dedicated devices have really taken off. Amazon were the first to do it with the Echo, and their popularity pushed Google to follow suit. Apple's 'Homepod' will launch soon, and Microsoft are partnering with Harmon Kardon to release a Cortana speaker.
I'll explore more about the appeal of these devices in a later post, for now, let's just say it was another area of smart home technology I've been keen to get into. Having already got pretty good speakers for music in the form of Sonos, I didn't really feel the need for the 'full size' Amazon Echo. Given that the Echo dot can do everything its bigger brother can do, just with a smaller speaker, I opted to grab one of those for setup in our Living Room.
The box itself is small, betraying the small size of the Echo dot itself. Inside there's the Echo Dot itself, a power adapter, and cable. The cable itself is a Micro USB type, but don't be fooled into thinking you can use any USB power adapter you have at home already to power this. You need to use the included adapter to provide the right power.
There's a small setup guide and warranty leaflet inside the box, and that's about it.
Setup is fairly straightforward. Plug in, and after a few moments the Echo announces that it's ready for setup, and to use the Amazon Alexa app to proceed. An amber light will begin pulsing around the outside top edge of the echo dot.
Inside the app, you're asked to first sign in with your Amazon account, and accept the terms and conditions. Setup then proceeds by asking what type of device you have. After this, it's time to get your Echo Dot connected to the internet. To do this, you need to link it to your home WiFi. To do that, the Echo Dot creates it's own temporary WiFi network, which you must temporarily link your phone to.
Once you've linked your phone to the Echo Dot, you can then have it scan for your home WiFi, and enter the passphrase. Your phone will then connect back to your regular home WiFi for the rest of setup to proceed.
You'll be asked if you want to link your Echo dot to any existing speakers you might have, either by bluetooth or a cable. In our case, we don't have anything to connect to in our living room, so we chose 'No Speakers'. After this, the Echo Dot is ready to use!
After a few minutes, Alexa did chime in and declare that it had downloaded and update, and needed to restart. There appears to be no aspect of the app that facilitates updating - it just happens automatically.
Now that we have the Echo Dot setup, I'll be spending some time exploring the functionality, and of course integrating it with our smart home! So, expect more videos and posts coming soon.