I was on top of the Amazon Echo revolution from the moment it was announced. We had the original Echo and now the 2nd generation model along with an Echo Spot. The Echo takes its place in the main part of the house and we use it a lot, usually for asking the age of some actor in a movie we’re watching, or to find out when they died.
It’s also a handy way to re-order Amazon goods. For instance, I can tell it to “order more coffee” and it will respond by reciting to me my last coffee order and then ask, “do you want to re-order that?” A simple “yes” response and another package of Tim Horton’s is on its way.
The Echo Spot is smaller and sits on the night stand beside my bed. I thought it would be handy to have another Echo in that part of the house but it doesn’t get much use, at least not like the primary unit.
But it does get used once nightly. When I hit the rack I say to it, “Alexa, play the sound of thunderstorms” and for the next hour it plays a loop of rain and gentle thunder sounds. I’m usually asleep in five minutes. It’s brilliant.
When it comes to automation via voice using Echo devices, I’ve always drawn a blank on how I could best make use of it. Right after I got the original unit I copied the plans a friend had made to open his garage door by telling Alexa to open it. I don’t have a garage but thought remotely turning on and off a relay by voice command would be cool.
It’s the way these devices are used to turn on lights by voice command except I find that pretty useless too. If we leave the house in the evening we always leave a light on. And even if we forget, the light switch is just inside the door. It’s more effort to say “Alexa, turn on the lights” than it is to just flip the switch.
Then yesterday as I was walking out the door mid-day there was a sudden clap of thunder and the feedline was still connected to the equipment in the shack. In that moment I thought how handy it would be to simply say “Alexa, disconnect the shack antennas” and wondered if I might have finally found a use for voice control in the shack.
Until it occurred to me that if I was going to add relays to the feedline switches, why not just wire the relays so whenever the equipment was switched off the feedline was disconnected?
Automation without the need for a spoken word.
I had a good chuckle at that and then went back to my premise that while there are many good uses for the Amazon Echo and its voice technology, none of them are applicable to the way I practice our hobby. At least not yet..