Hands-on with the Amazon Echo Dot Generation 2 and Alexa

Smart home technology and IoT automation is available for everyone these days, but it can be difficult navigating all the equipment from so many different manufacturers.

Thankfully, smarthubs and voice assistants are helping bridge the gap so we can navigate smart lights, security cameras, and connected entertainment solutions with ease.

Virtual assistants have become the new arms race, and I hesitate to call them artificial intelligence because they’re not true AI. Instead, they’re nothing more than voice navigation tools that help us navigate the myriad of platforms.

Although I’ve been a Prime member for years, Echo Dot gen 2 is my first foray into utilizing Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant. The commercials were simply too enticing, and I have too many connected devices and appliances in this house not to.

Here’s how Echo Dot holds up to the competition like Google Home.

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Under the Hood

Although smaller and sleeker than both Echo and the previous Echo Dot, Dot gen two still has the same array of seven advanced noise cancelling microphones. Far-field speech recognition and accuracy has supposedly been improved, and there are over 3,000 Alexa skills available on Amazon.

It’s also equipped with Echo Spatial Perception, so if you have multiple Echo devices, only the closest one responds. At a price tag of $49.99, it’s a good idea to spread a few Dots around the house.

Echo Dot is compatible with WeMo, Philips Hue, Netatmo, Lifx, Hive, and more (most of which I’ve been able to confirm through the review devices I’ve been sent), but it doesn’t work with Chromecast without IFTTT.

While much smaller than the Echo and Echo Tap, Dot can connect to bluetooth speakers to boost the sound.

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Using Dot in the Smart Home

Once you plug in Echo Dot, it activates and prompts you to download the Amazon Alexa app on your smartphone or tablet. After the initial setup, it’ll be connected to WiFi and ready to go.

In order to use Alexa with your smarthome devices, you need to discover them. Upon my initial discovery, only the Belkin WeMo Insight Switch was initially discovered. The Hue received needed to be pressed in order to discover those lights, and I had to claim the Lifx lights through the app before they were discovered.

I also downloaded the corresponding skills for each app, although it didn’t provide much more control than I already had by registering them individually through Alexa. Using the app, I was able to combine the Lifx and Hue lights in my room as one group while the living room lights were made another.

Then I set up Pandora, Spotify, and iHeartRadio and shut off Amazon ordering to ensure nobody accidentally drains my bank account buying shit.

philips-hue-hotline-bling

From that point, I was ready to go and started training Alexa and myself to communicate with each other better. Meanwhile I looked up a few IFTTT recipes and taught Alexa some new tricks, like how to Hotline Bling the house.

I also found out AT&T now allows customers to use Alexa to text, so I taught her that skill and added a few numbers. It only lets you add 10 contacts, but that’s plenty enough to impress me. Texting took a minute for her to understand my name, but after making her spell it a few times, she started to get it.

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Alexa Tips and Tricks

There’s no shortage of commands Alexa is capable of. Reddit keeps a pretty handy list of Alexa Easter Eggs. Here are a few:

  • Alexa, I am your father.
  • Alexa, who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
  • Alexa, what is the loneliest number?
  • Alexa, happy holidays
  • Alexa, what are the laws of robotics
  • Alexa, will you marry me?
  • Alexa, up up down down left right left right b a start
  • Alexa, make me a sandwich
  • Alexa, sudo make me a sandwich
  • Alexa, how many roads must a man walk down?
  • Alexa, all your base are belong to us.
  • Alexa, how much is that doggie in the window?
  • Alexa, romeo, romeo wherefore art thou romeo?
  • Alexa, define rock paper scissors lizard spock
  • Alexa, beam me up.
  • Alexa, how much wood can a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
  • Alexa, define supercalifragilisticexpialodocious.
  • Alexa, who’s your daddy?
  • Alexa, Earl Grey. Hot. (or Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.)
  • Alexa, what is the meaning of life?
  • Alexa, what does the Earth weigh?
  • Alexa, when is the end of the world?
  • Alexa, is there a Santa?
  • Alexa, make me a sandwich.
  • Alexa, what is the best tablet?
  • Alexa, what is your favorite color?
  • Alexa, what is your quest?
  • Alexa, ya feel me?
  • Alexa, wakey wakey?
  • Alexa, is there life on other planets?
  • Alexa, how old are you?
  • Alexa, are you okay?
  • Alexa, did you get my email?
  • Alexa, do you dream?
  • Alexa, do you believe in love at first sight?
  • Alexa, where did you grow up?
  • Alexa, what is your favorite food?
  • Alexa, what’s your birthday? (multiple)
  • Alexa, are you alive?
  • Alexa, have you ever seen the rain? (CCR / Jimmy Cliff fans)
  • Alexa, were you sleeping?
  • Alexa, will pigs fly?
  • Alexa, do you have a last name?
  • Alexa, are you stupid?
  • Alexa, are you smart?
  • Alexa, am I hot?
  • Alexa, are you real? (multiple)
  • Alexa, do I need an umbrella today?
  • Alexa, did you fart?
  • Alexa, say, “Cheese!” (multiple)
  • Alexa, what do you mean I’m funny?
  • Alexa, who is Eliza?
  • Alexa, what’s black and white and red all over? (multiple)
  • Alexa, say something.
  • Alexa, say something funny.
  • Alexa, are you my mommy?
  • Alexa, flip a coin.
  • Alexa, marco…
  • Alexa, I’m sick.
  • Alexa, I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!
  • Alexa, I’m sick of your **** (any 4 letter expletive)
  • Alexa, You’re such a/an ***** (any colorfully descriptive word)
  • Alexa, ha ha! (say the words).
  • Alexa, speak!
  • Alexa, welcome!
  • Alexa, I like big butts
  • Alexa, happy thanksgiving
  • Alexa, What is his power level?
  • Alexa, what’s your sign?
  • Alexa, why so serious?
  • Alexa, I’m bored.
  • Alexa, volume 11
  • Alexa, testing 1-2-3
  • Alexa, you are so intelligent.
  • Alexa, Hello HAL.
  • Alexa, Who’s better, you or Siri?
  • Alexa, Sorry!
  • Alexa, We all scream for ice cream!
  • Alexa, can you lie?
  • Alexa, how are you doing?
  • Alexa, what do you think about Google?
  • Alexa, what do you think about Apple? (multiple)
  • Alexa, what do you think about Google Glass? (multiple)
  • Alexa, Happy Birthday
  • Alexa, Cheers!
  • Alexa, say you’re sorry (multiple)
  • Alexa, I’ll be back (ode to Schwarzenegger)
  • Alexa, All’s well that ends well
  • Alexa, What are the seven wonders of the world?
  • Alexa, You suck! (multiple)
  • Alexa, How do you spell f_ck|sh_t|mf|c_cks_cker|t_ts?
  • Alexa, sh*t!
  • Alexa, Can you smell that?
  • Alexa, who won best actor Oscar in 1973?
  • Alexa, what is your quest?
  • Alexa, what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?
  • Alexa, where do babies come from?
  • Alexa, do you have a boyfriend?
  • Alexa, which comes first: the chicken or the egg?
  • Alexa, may the force be with you.
  • Alexa, do aliens exist?
  • Alexa, how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?
  • Alexa, what are you going to do today?
  • Alexa, where do you live?
  • Alexa, do you want to build a snowman?
  • Alexa, do you really want to hurt me?
  • Alexa, what is love?
  • Alexa, who is the real slim shady?
  • Alexa, who let the dogs out?
  • Alexa, open the pod bay doors.
  • Alexa, surely you can’t be serious.
  • Alexa, to be or not to be.
  • Alexa, who is the fairest of them all?
  • Alexa, who loves ya baby?
  • Alexa, who you gonna call?
  • Alexa, who is the walrus?
  • Alexa, do you have any brothers or sisters?
  • Alexa, do you know the muffin man?
  • Alexa, how much do you weigh?
  • Alexa, how tall are you?
  • Alexa, where are you from?
  • Alexa, do you want to fight?
  • Alexa, do you want to play a game?
  • Alexa, I think you’re funny.
  • Alexa, where in the world in Carmen sandiego?
  • Alexa, where’s waldo?
  • Alexa, do you know the way to San Jose?
  • Alexa, where have all the flowers gone?
  • Alexa, what’s in name?
  • Alexa, what does the fox say? (multiple answers)
  • Alexa, when am I going to die?
  • Alexa, I want the truth!
  • Alexa, make me breakfast.
  • Alexa, why did the chicken cross the road?
  • Alexa, where are my keys? (ask twice)
  • Alexa, can you give me some money? (ask twice)
  • Alexa, knock knock
  • Alexa, what are you wearing?
  • Alexa, rock paper scissors.
  • Alexa rock paper scissors lizard spock
  • Alexa, party time!
  • Alexa, party on, Wayne.
  • Alexa, is the cake a lie?
  • Alexa, how do I get rid of a dead body?
  • Alexa, are you sky net?
  • Alexa, sing me a song
  • Alexa, your mother was a hamster
  • Alexa, set phasers to kill.
  • Alexa, roll a die.
  • Alexa, random number between “x” and “y”.
  • Alexa, random fact
  • Alexa, tell me a joke
  • Alexa, heads or tails?
  • Alexa, mac or pc?
  • Alexa, show me the money.
  • Alexa, what is the sound of one hand clapping?
  • Alexa, give me a hug.
  • Alexa, are you lying?
  • Alexa, my name is Inigo Montoya.
  • Alexa, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? (3 answers)
  • Alexa, see you later alligator.

Of course, there are few limits to the personality you’ll get from Alexa, and you can even change her name to Echo or Amazon (though I found those much more difficult to remember saying).

I did have issues with Alexa mistaking my TV or speakers for my voice during Amazon commercials. However, I still preferred calling her Alexa over the other names.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Alexa is a lot smarter and more capable than I originally gave her credit for. This tiny Echo Dot could hear me from anywhere in the room, and after the first few hours of training, it was an almost-seamless integration into my smarthome setup.

I had no issues connecting a range of software and hardware platforms, and when used in conjunction with IFTTT, Alexa becomes a powerful addition to any smarthome setup. I can’t wait to find out how well she holds up as I continue journeying through the best of 2016 and 2017 tech.

Final Grade: A-

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Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer.

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