The Amazon Echo brings the digital assistant that most people have in their smartphones to their home and it makes a wide range of useful actions and activities much easier than before. From the perspective of disability, the Amazon Echo opens a whole new world of opportunities and can in fact may some day-to-day activities much more affordable than before. The devices and gadgets designed specifically for assistive and adaptive use are always expensive, but the Amazon Echo offers an affordable, versatile alternative.
The Amazon Echo or the newer version, the Echo Dot is a small yet effective device for managing your home and your lifestyle. It is voice activated and designed to do practically anything you can ask. To activate the Echo you need to activate Alexa, and sentences starting with ‘Alexa’ are instantly picked up by the clever device. From ordering groceries (from Amazon) to playing music and audiobooks, the Echo has many basic functions but it can be used in many more effective and potentially life changing ways too.
Amazon Echo and Environmental Controls
Living with disabilities may mean you have many adapted accessories and gadgets in your home. Very expensive gadgets have been created for individual tasks such as opening the curtains. Instead of investing in these Environmental Control devices, the Echo has the ability to connect with The Internet of Things.
Certain devices pair up with the Amazon Echo with ease and the list of items which pair is growing by the day. You can team the Echo with Philips Hue lights, the Nest thermostat and other household items such as specific brands of Wi-Fi speaker. In fact, if you fit a Wi-Fi-enabled switchbox, or get someone to do it for you, you can control any electrical device in your home.
It isn’t a replacement for a smartphone or computer but it can handle many everyday tasks and it becomes smarter by the day as developers look for new ways to make more from it.
Amazon Echo Skills
To further enhance your Echo experience, the creators regularly launch new ‘Skills’ for Alexa. These skills are like mini apps which allow you to give even more abilities to Alexa. Skills such as ‘the National Rail skill’ will let you plan journeys and find out about any rail delays. There are hundreds of Skills to explore which can again, make life easier and planning getting out and about less of a struggle.
Amazon Echo and Your Voice
There have been concerns over whether the Amazon Echo may struggle with artificial voices and synthetic speech but tests so far suggest Alexa has no problem understanding most commands from most voices. Using a communication aid should not limit what anyone can do with their Echo.
Affordable, Universal Design
The Amazon Echo offers an affordable alternative to the expensive assistive technologies usually available. It may not have been designed with disabled people in mind but the Amazon Echo is highly versatile and can bring real independence and ease to many people’s lives. Like the iPad it may be another disruptive technology that shakes up established healthcare companies that have been creating environmental control systems.
This video review gives a good overview of what the Echo can do and how it can become a key accessory in your home: