Amazon Echo Arrived Today!

Another piece of my RV Automation project arrived today: the Amazon Echo. I’ve gone back and forth about whether to include an Echo in my project. My mind was made up last month though, when I received notification that Amazon was releasing an API to Alexa’s voice interface to developers. So I signed up for the developer program, and upon confirmation, I ordered an Echo.

Upon opening the box, I found the Echo, power cord, and remote control. Taking these out of the box, I found a single 2″ x 8″ instruction card that told me to plug it in, and then download the free Echo app. So I plugged-in the Echo, and a blue ring appeared at the top, with a cyan spot rotating around it. About 30 seconds later, the ring turned orange, and I was greeted with a very pleasant “Hello. Your Amazon Echo is ready for setup. Just follow the instructions in your Echo pack.”

Amazon Echo showing blue light ring

So far this is looking pretty good. Packaging is top notch, visual appearance is very modern and attractive, and the sound of Alexa’s voice is very pleasing.

So next I downloaded and installed the Echo app. I was a bit surprised to see that the Echo app only had a rating of 2.5 out of 5 stars. But proceeding on, the app downloaded quickly, then prompted me for my login upon starting. I was then instructed to wait for the orange light ring, and pressed Continue.

Amazon Echo showing orange light ring

I was then instructed to switch my iPhone’s Wi-Fi to connect to the Echo’s Wi-Fi hub (“Amazon-XXX”). Once I did that, Alexa told me it was setup, and to continue in the Echo app.

The app then prompted me for my network name and password. It then confirmed that I’d entered the password correctly, and completed the setup, ending with an introduction video.

The Echo app then walked me through saying a few things to Echo, like “Alexa, what’s the weather” and “Alexa, play It’s a Long Way There by Little River Band.”

I then explored the Echo app, providing information in the Settings pages, and running through Voice Training. This took about 30 minutes total.

Overall, setup was quite painless, and Echo seems to work great. Now my mind is racing on to all the things I’d like to do with it:

  • Control the lights in my RV
    Since my RV runs on 12v, I’m hooking up Arduino’s to control them. But there aren’t off-the-shelf solutions, like there are for normal 120v house lighting. So I’m expecting to need to use the Alexa API to route commands to a web server running on one of the Arduinos with an Ethernet Shield.
  • Control my Home Theatre and Stereo system
    Again, I may need to use the Alexa API to route commands to an Arduino with an IR interface. Someday I may be able to upgrade my TV and stereo to be directly controllable via WiFi or BTLE, but for now I should be able to simulate a universal remote.
  • Voice control my MIDI keyboard setup
    I’d like to be able to start/stop recording while I’m playing piano.
  • Query status of various inputs (temperature, humidity, level) related to my RV
    Even better yet would be to get notified when something is amiss, such as a leaky RV roof seam.

I could probably dream all night about this sort of stuff, but I think I need to pick something and try my hand at using the Alexa API. I’ll report back later my experiences doing so.

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