I recently took the time to do a review of the Amazon Echo Auto on my commute to the office. I did the initial road test with the Echo Auto as it came straight out of the box. No extra skills were used.
I was surprised by the results. When it comes to managing your calendar or your shopping list, even playing your favorite music, Amazon Alexa shines. Since the Echo Auto is from the Alexa family of products, it inherits this functionality.
But when it comes to finding things close by as you drive, the results are less than stellar. When asked, the Echo Auto does find results. For example, I asked where I could find gas. I learned from this question, that the way it is phrased will determine the information returned. Echo Auto started reading me an article it found on reference.com. Obviously not what I was looking for.
When I instead asked Echo Auto where I could get gas, a list of four different gas stations was returned. Besides learning that there are specific ways to ask your question to get the information you really want, I also learned that Echo Auto is terrible at returning relevant information in this scenario.
I did get one gas station that was close by, but all of the others were pretty spread out and quite a distance from my current location. The same thing when I asked for “breakfast” and for “food,” with both requests returning very different information.
Anecdotally, there seem to be some companies that have an arrangement with Amazon to always return their name in a result set. I’ll let you figure out if it’s true, but some names were mentioned almost every time I asked for a particular thing.
I also realized that Echo Auto, as with the Amazon Alexa series of devices, is essentially a clean slate for developers to create skills that can interact with the user to fetch the desired information. These skills are going to be what make the Echo Auto shine, just like apps do for your Android or iPhone. Without apps, it’s just a glorified phone with a calendar and the ability to make lists.
I’ll be testing some of these skills and writing about the results in future posts, so check back often!