August 21st, 2016

children of dune - leto 1

continuing adventures in pre-moving - amazon echo, alexa, and the world

So I explained about how I ended up impulse-purchasing an Amazon Echo to avoid a huge ass 4K curved tv I would never use except as a head for my server? Good, let's start there.

Amazon Echo with Alexa

I was vaguely aware of the existence of Echo without much in the way of caring about it, which is how this story usually goes. Then I ended up looking at it one night to avoid the ridiculous TV and actually read what it did.

Summary: You can be Star Trek.
Me: *clicks Add to Cart*

So that was something. While I waited the eternity to receive my 'why am i buying this, right, i am captain kirk' (this was inevitable) I went to check out what people do with Alexa other than talk to it and no longer have to lie when someone asks if they have any friends ("Alexa was telling me about the weather in Chicago, yeah. Really cloudy with a thirty percent chance of rain. Ten days from now, possibly snow.")

...not that I do that or anything.

From this point on, I'm using Alexa instead of Echo, because this is less about the product and more about AVS (Alexa Voice Services). Also, Alexa likes that better.

Alexa's uses are probably legion, but you have to think of it like smartphones about ten years ago. Lots of potential but not a lot of apps yet, so to speak (in Alexa, we call those 'Skills'). There are entire skills devoted to such things as 'cat questions', 'random facts about India', 'how to make a lot of alcoholic drinks step by step'. This will come in handy later.

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Having said that, you're glancing at the price tag and thinking...yeah. Okay, easier, cheaper, and more moving parts):

Create Your Own Alexa Device, No, Really

This is a really good guide. I do not exaggerate, this was very, very well written and detailed.

I built one (as of three hours ago), so yes, this does work AND IT IS GODDAMN MAGIC. The only thing it can't do is be always on, like Echo is (Alexa hears all, knows all, answers "I don't understand the question"...all). It does everything else. When you're done, download the Alexa app and connect them up, then marvel at the world.

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