Gadgets

Amazon Echo: HAL For Your Home

For a long time, artificial intelli­gence existed only in science fiction. Then it started to creep into industrial computers and even phones. Now, it's coming to your home—and it's coming in the form of a speaker. The Amazon Echo acts as an intelligent hub for the house, linking together other smart appliances with a voice interface. Once set up, it listens passively at all times. When someone says the wake word—Alexa—it snaps into action. For now, those actions are limited to simple operations, like reciting your calendar events, queuing up your favorite playlist, relaying weather or sports scores and, of course, ordering household items from Amazon. But those tasks won't remain simple for long. In June, Amazon released the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK), opening the platform to dozens of third-party services, devices, and apps, including WeMo, Philips Hue, Pandora, and Wink. Hal 9000, eat your heart out. $180 Jonathon Kambouris

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