About a month ago we visited our brother and sister-in-law back east in Connecticut. Joe and Michele are certainly tech-savvy — they have up to date iPhones, a smart TV and both of their cars have Apple CarPlay. A couple of years ago they tested out the Petcube Bites for us with their dog, Teddy. But most often they ask us for advice about what new gadgets to buy and we like to feel we are the experts. So we were confused by our envy for their Amazon Echo Show.
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When the Echo Show came out a few years ago, we pooh-poohed it immediately. Oh, it is so ugly, it looks like a 1980s computer terminal. Who would ever want a camera from Amazon in their house? Oh, Amazon copied the Chumby. We laughed but kept buying more Echo Dots for every room, and an Alexa-enabled clock in our bedroom because it did NOT have a camera. Why would we need a big Alexa with a screen in our house?
We were shocked when Joe and Michele got the Echo Show as a gift a couple of years ago. Why would you want that in your house? And why didn’t you ask us first before you accepted it? We stayed smug until we visited and saw the Echo Show in action.
You know what? It is a pretty clever device. When you ask for a news briefing, it often plays some video along with it, even from NPR. (I’ve always wondered what those NPR folks looked like.) If you listen to music, the Show displays the lyrics — really great for the soundtrack of Hamilton (Michele listens to it a lot. I mean A LOT). If you set a timer, it counts down on the screen. It always displays the time and temperature and you can customize the display with a picture of your choice. We used a peaceful image from our recent trip to Hawaii.
If you haven’t figured it out already, yes, we got one of our own. Almost as soon as we got home from our trip, we ordered a second generation Amazon Echo Show, and now we’re hooked. We put it in the kitchen, where we spend most of our time, and quite frankly, where we feel it’s safest to have a camera that’s always connected.
After a few weeks, now we wonder what took us so long. We ask Alexa for the weather a lot, and now we get a visual as well as a verbal answer on the time and temperature. We have our calendar connected so it is always shows our upcoming appointments. Playing Jeopardy is a lot more fun when you can see the clues white on blue just like the show. We’ve even done a video-conference with Joe and Michele and can see them on their own Echo Show, just like we are back in their kitchen.
The Echo has some other capabilities we just started playing with. We have connected some of our smart cameras and can now view them right on the screen by asking Alexa to show us the garage or the backyard. All of our Wyze cameras work just great, our Samsung ones do not, nor does our SkyBell smart doorbell. We can see our mom’s Ring Doorbell remotely and our own Ring Stick-up Cam in the backyard.
We do a lot of home cooking, so we’ve tried to use the Echo Show for recipes, but so far we’ve not been successful. We are used to looking up techniques and tricks on YouTube, and Alexa search on YouTube is not the best. It will bring up a browser that’s pretty clunky to navigate with your voice. There seems to be a lot of cooking content we can access but it wasn’t that easy or obvious, so we will have to spend time figuring it out.
The Echo Show does have some room for improvement. The voice and video are slightly off, just enough to notice. The voice-recognition feels inferior compared to our other Echo devices, especially compared to the brand new 3rd generation Echo Dot in our living room. Often times that Echo Dot hears our voices and answers when we were hoping for the kitchen Show instead. Sometimes we can even be right in front of the Echo Show and it doesn’t seem to hear or respond. It’s also harder to get the Show to quit out of something or stop playing, in some cases, like playing games or watching videos, you have to say “Alexa, exit” to stop whatever it is doing and move on, and this can be frustrating when you just want to set a timer or find the weather forecast.
In just a few weeks we’ve gone from laughing at the Echo Show to enjoying and accepting it as part of our smart home life and recommending it to our friends. We’ve even gone ahead and bought the new smaller Show 5 to replace our Alexa-enabled clock in our bedroom. Luckily, that one has a physical cover for the camera.