I got an Amazon Echo Dot for my birthday. This allows me to command a computer, using voice, to do things. The voice response on the echo is amazing. It does not get much wrong, and you can speak in a fairly normal voice from another room and the mysterious entity that apparently lives inside the Echo (known to me as Alexa) will hear you.
There is an Amazon Echo and the alternative, Echo Dot. The price difference is very large, and the differences are fairly small. The regular Echo is tall and has high quality speakers, the dot is short and has OK speakers. If you have nice speakers that you can plug the Dot into, that’s the way to go. You can get inexpensive Echo’s refurbished)
(I should mention that just about now, Amazon is ramping up to Prime Day 2017, which starts on July 10th and runs through July 11th, which is when they produce all sorts of sales (currently you can get $10 by streaming a Prime video for the first time on your TV, and get a substantial discount off of Kindle Unlimited, which I do not use but some people swear by.))
The Echo/Alexa thing can be very handy. I can easily create and update a shopping list that is mirrored on one of two list keeping apps available for the phone, on that is fancy and not free and the other that is less fancy and free. The Echo can generally be set up to interact with the Internet of Things. We are building a very intelligent robot and I assume I’ll be able to use the Echo to command the robot to do whatever the Robot can do. The other day I played a podcast, but I was unable to rewind backwards a few seconds, to hear a part I missed, but I’m sure that can be done somehow.
The Echo can be sufficiently integrated into your Amazon account to use it to order thing and to check the status of orders. I’ve chosen to not do that at this time. I’ll wait until Huxley is away at College.
The other big deal voice actuated device like the Echo is, of course, the Google Home. Since Google interfaces with the Android OS, and Google and Android are in a steel cage death match, Echo does not automatically do a lot of things it should do. For example, it should work flawlessly with a lot of different Android apps, so, for instance, I can send shopping or to-do list items to my Simplenote app, which is what I use for such things. There are indeed ways to make Echo work with other machines, and probably to make Home do the same thing, as there is an API, and neither device is made by Apple (which will take your first born if you try to integrate with any other company’s products). But at the moment it is medium level hacking. I expect that problem to go away in a matter of months, however.
The single best thing about the echo is its excellent mic and whatever software/hardware magic is being employed to pick up voice from far away and understand it clearly. I can’t compare it to Google’s device because I never tried one. I look forward to bending Alexa’s abilities to my will, and eventually taking over my kitchen!