The voice-powered Amazon Echo has just taken a big step in becoming a smart home hub. A new update allows users to control a number of Philips Hue and Belkin WeMo devices using only their voice.
If you own the popular app-enabled lighting system or controllable switch, add the devices to your home Wi-Fi network and name them in their respective apps. Once that is done, ask the Echo’s Siri-like personal assistant Alexa to “discover my appliances.”
Then you’ll be able to control appliances with your voice.
Even though the Echo was originally introduced late last year, you’ll still need to request an invitation to purchase it. You can do that here. It retails for $199 while Amazon Prime members can purchase it for $149, a $50 discount. You’ll also need to download the free Amazon Echo companion app on the App Store.
In late January, the speaker was updated with voice control for Spotify, Pandora, and iTunes via Bluetooth control. You can ask Alexa to find music from those sources and Amazon Music Library, Prime Music, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio.
Our own Bryan M. Wolfe reviewed the Echo earlier this year, and was really impressed with the device’s potential:
I’ve come away very impressed with the Amazon Echo — not so much because of what it can do, but rather by what it could mean for home entertainment down the road. The technology behind Alexa is impressive and I can’t wait to see it utilized in future devices, such as televisions or DVRs.
At the minimum, Alexa should help convince Apple to make Siri a better communicator on current and future devices, such as a next-generation Apple TV.
I think this recent update is another interesting move from Amazon as it makes the Echo even smarter. I’m interested to see what other improvements can be made to the device.
Currently, you can also ask the Echo to detail news and weather from a number of sources like NPR, BBC, and ESPN.
For other news today, see: Apple officially releases iOS 8.3 with additional Siri languages, new emoji and more, Digital copies of the first 6 Star Wars films are an expensive proposition, and Apple’s new Florida store to feature artwork from Hense, will also open on Watch launch day.