Skip to main content

Here's why people would buy Amazon's Echo, the weird device that listens to everything you say

Here's why people would buy Amazon's Echo, the weird device that listens to everything you say


It's a speaker above everything else

Share this story

It's not hard to understand the Amazon Echo.

Today Amazon announced the the device, a 360-degree speaker that plays music and podcasts at the command of your voice. The Echo also functions as an all-in-one A.I. servant, answering banal questions about pounds to ounces or how to spell alligator. You know, like Siri.

In fact, "Siri but crappier" seems to be the hot take floating around the tech sphere, a new niche pool I've found myself wading through, where men tell you why shit sucks until it's popular, and then they tell you why it's the future even though it's a thing of the past.

"Siri but crappier" seems to be the hot take floating around the tech sphere

Echo isn't that. For normal people, tech objects are their bluntest component. Millions of people use the iPhone mostly as a phone, thousands of others use Apple TV as a Netflix box. The Echo is a speaker and it will be used by me and plenty others as just that. That's what has me on board.

The Siri-like feature is the added touch, something I might get in the habit of using the way I got in the habit of using Microsoft Kinect's more expansive voice commands after months of simply using it to turn my TV on and off. Unlike my iPhone, which I never control with voice commands, and regularly forget features Siri, the Echo has at least some small shot at becoming the robot I speak to in my day-to-day life.

Because we will speak to a robot if the Great Tech Gods have their way. It's just a matter of whose robot. The Echo is Phase 1 of Amazon's effort. The company already promises an app will allow Echo to follow you wherever you go, albeit in a limited form. But with Amazon's rapidly increasing obsession with hardware, assume Echo will be responding from televisions and shouting from drones should it find success in these early days.

Right now though, the Echo's a speaker that plays music in your bedroom, living room, or kitchen, priced comparably to other speakers its size and style — the kind that sell like hotcakes on

The Echo's a speaker that plays music in your home

Amazon took a product that's becoming increasingly common in our lives and crammed some future tech inside, in the off chance it can Trojan horse its way into every room in our homes. Apple did the same thing with your phone. Some people called that crazy, too.

If there's anything to question here — if there's anything to not fully understand — it's what the hell we're sacrificing allowing giant corporations that store our personal data and control the flow of everything we purchase to know what we're saying when we're offline, an idea that itself is false. We aren't offline with an Echo in the home. Plugged into the internet, the next wave of "helper tech" is always listening, prepared to tell us who directed Street Fighter: The Movie.

But come on, we've already cashed the check of our personal privacy. Between Kinect, smartphones, Facebook, Twitter, and every other window into our lives, we've become accustomed with the screens we look into looking back at us. The only difference now is the machine isn't looking, it's listening.