The Amazon Echo platform and Alexa can do some pretty awesome things, like play music, the radio, turn on lights, control your heat and create your shopping or to/do lists. But if you used the device you’ll realize there is still some potential for improvement.

Here are six things Amazon could do in 2017 to make Echo more than a semi-useful toy.

6. Alexa Chatbot

Alexa now has thousands of skills and the list is growing every day, but having so many skills reveals a major flaw: how do you remember which skill to use and what phrase will open said skill?

Amazon needs to simplify Alexa  so we can access any skill without having to use specific commands. Basically Alexa needs to be smarter at recognizing our intent. For example, if I want to know when the bus is coming next to a stop near my home, I shouldn’t need to remember the command “Alexa, ask busapp when is the next route 95 at halt 3047 “.  It should be simpler like “Alexa, when is the next bus coming?”. This level of complication that Skills commands have created defeats the purpose of having a voice-activated speaker.

5. Customize the Appearance of Amazon Echo

Design is very important and the ability to personalize objects is paramount. Take a look around at the plethora of smartphone cases and you’ll agree. Google recently released Google Home which has options for different colour bases. Echo coming in only white or black is much too limited.

Since every family has different taste, the metallic black or white design may not look good in every family room, basement or kitchen. It should still be discreet and in the background but it should blend into your home instead of looking like something from science fiction.

4. Smarter Voice Assistant

Google Home may surpass the Echo and the main reason is Google Assistant. Many people who have an Amazon Echo today don’t use it to control smart devices because they either don’t have any, don’t want any, or can’t afford them. Instead they use it as an occasional music player and information assistant, like Siri or Google Now.

Unfortunately Alexa can’t answer as many questions as Google Assistant (see our previous Canadian trivia showdown post), and while there are individual “skills” that might help, there’s way too many of them to remember.

Alexa needs to get smarter, it’s that simple.

3. Personalized Assistant

Despite the privacy concerns, we are all using our phones and smartwatches these days to keep control of our everyday personal lives.

Imagine if Alexa were to recognize you by your voice or the way you look, so that it can provide the most up-to-date information about anything you want, personalized for you?

Now picture this as a special security feature. Let’s say an intruder enters your home, and your Echo has the ability to recognize that this person is a stranger. The device could then notify you, or even call for help. It’s an intriguing possibility and this level of personalization is where Alexa and the Echo platform could really stand out.

2. Multi-Room Support

You can’t sync multiple Echo devices together right now to play music or radio, which is a huge problem for audiophiles. Google Home can do this, why can’t Echo? Amazon Echo needs to catch up. It’s an easy example of how Amazon could sell many more Echo devices.

It would also be awesome if those devices in each of your rooms recognized your presence and could raise or lower the music as you walk through your home. It doesn’t stop there, Alexa should know once I’ve left the room and turn off the light for me. Multi-Room support is an area we are bound to hear about a lot in 2017.

1. Language Support

For Canada this is huge. The best example was this Christmas with my bilingual family. Spotify has a wonderful Christmas playlist called “Noel francophone” but Alexa for the life of her cannot understand the pronunciation of “Noel”. If Amazon is serious about making Echo an international success, Canada would be an easy place for them to start.

There are a couple third-party “skills” available for Echo that try to translate, but they are very poor and inefficient. At this point it’s much easier to use your phone. This is another real opportunity for Amazon Echo to shine.

 

2017 is going to be an interesting year for smart speakers. The race is already on and the competition is heating up. Amazon has every chance to stay on top.