Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The Making of Amazon’s Echo

I’ve heard great things about Amazon’s Echo products lately. It seems to be vastly more than a conduit for buying stuff from Amazon; it sounds, to me, like what Siri is trying to be.

Eugene Kim, Business Insider:

To succeed, the Echo and its built-in Alexa virtual assistant would need to be very responsive and conversational. It really had to feel like talking to a human being. […]

The test involved a human “wizard” sitting in a separate room and responding in real-time to any voice query a human testing subject would make to the Echo, often without telling the tester in advance. For example, if the subject asked Echo, “What’s the weather like in New York?” the wizard in the other room would quickly type and send out an answer through Echo’s voice.

Bezos also reportedly set the Echo’s latency goals at one second, with exceptionally good speech interpretation. It had to be — it has no screen to fall back on. As Apple is to hardware and Dropbox is to cloud service reliability, Amazon now is to virtual assistance: they’re the high watermark.