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Echo news from the Southend Standard

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They will answer questions on a vast range of topics, set alarms, tell you the weather and what your commute holds in store. Some can order almost any goods over the internet for delivery within hours or days. Hooked up with other devices, they turn lights on and off and control the heating. But they have also been accused of making fake purchases and snooping on your conversations.

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Amazon Echo Show review: Essentially internet-connected speakers with built-in artificial intelligence in the form of voice assistants, like those on most smartphones. The two biggest players are Amazonwhose Echo uses its Alexa voice assistant, and Google, whose Home speaker uses its Assistant voice recognition system.

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How do they work? The built-in microphones listen for a wake-up word. It all happens in a split second over wifi. What can they do? How tall is the Eiffel Tower?

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How do you spell Mississippi? The Uber skill, for example, can order you a car, or Just Eat can request a takeaway. A big focus with skills is the smart home. Amazon has positioned the Echo as the futuristic hub for the smart home: But while all of the above works perfectly well, what the Echo excels in is not the futuristic at all, but the most humdrum of tasks.

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In the week it has been in my house, I have used it almost exclusively to set timers and alarms, add things to my shopping list or to-do list, and turn the radio on and off.

A colleague who listens to a lot of classical music says the Echo can find it difficult to find the right sonata. To be fair, these are minor grievances - generally, the service is very good.

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Sound quality, meanwhile, is perfectly good. Skills The one area where the Echo falls down is in the skills - the developer-made add-ons that you can download as extras. While there are more than 3, available in the US, the selection in the UK is a lot thinner.

And most of them are absolute junk: There are 20 or so skills in the UK that are actually professionally made.

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AP The other slightly irritating thing about some skills is that you have to say them by name to activate them. At the moment though, the skills cupboard feels a little bare.

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When Black Friday happensmaybe there will be a discount. When you start using your voice to perform actions, the computer becomes part of the environment, rather than a distraction.

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But even these little things dramatically reduce the number of times you pull out your phone to look up the football scores or switch songs. The brilliant thing about the Echo, though, is its newness.