Is Amazon Alexa Good for AV?

amazon-alexa-0916Short answer is — NO.

Long answer is — YES.

But, Amazon’s Alexa is certainly the most over-hyped thing in the market right now — thanks to the recent CEDIA show and the fact that other publications seem to have very little to talk about.

What is Alexa? Alexa is the voice service that powers their Echo and provides capabilities, or skills, that enable users to interact with devices in a more intuitive way: using their voice. Examples of these skills include the ability to play music, answer general questions, set an alarm or timer and more. Alexa is built in the cloud, so it is always getting smarter. The more customers use Alexa, the more she adapts to speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences.

Yes, there were a ton of Alexa-enabled products launched at CEDIA that will, theoretically, help you NOT use control system interfaces (i.e. touch-screens and keypads) and allow you to, instead, speak to the home (or office) and perform commands. Does it work? Yes, if you’re an app-based control company. And/or you’re Amazon and make it work with Echo.

But, again, this is an alternative to a touch-screen or a keypad remote and, if the control system itself sucks, it will still suck with Alexa.

The best applications, and most reliable, are the one’s that Amazon has built-in natively into Echo and Alexa. The worst are the plethora of third-party interfaces that only worked at CEDIA because they had a handful of engineers making them work for the show.

Will this be solved by the time they ship. Sure, it always is, but, Alexa is a moving target. It’s a consumer-based solution and, as Amazon performs updates, adds features and integrates new versions of their software, the host of AV companies doing control using Alexa will be THE LAST TO FIND OUT. The analogy? Apple going iOS updates and, all-of-a-sudden the ClickShare or the handful of ClickShare knock-offs, stop working with iOS devices until they catch-up with their own software update to accommodate APple’s latest iOS update.

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That may fly in the huddle-room for a few days, but NOT in the home. The homeowner who gets pissed off when Time Warner Cable is an hour late to show up and add-on the latest high-speed connection to their existing ports will be ripping-pissed-off when it takes the control system companies (and dozens of other third-party Alexa-based control product companies in AV) three or four days to catch-up with a software release. And, downright angry if it takes a week,.

Nope, nada.

Alexa is interesting, but DO NOT BUY IT. Don’t be an early adopter of this. Wait at least two years. Trust me on this one. Or, consider yourself a beta-tester and don’t get upset when shit-happens.

But, if you’re trying to integrate Alexa-app-based control and products — go for it. Those companies will have a deeper integration with Amazon.Not sure who those companies are? It’s easy to spot them. They include the host of mainstream consumer-based names you know off the top of your head and any other non-AV based company you’ve never heard of. Like, app companies.

Don’t believe the hype being created by those with nothing else to talk or write about.