In Brief

Amazon Echo: Is this the ultimate home assistant?

Amazon's intelligent speaker promises to be at your every beck and call

The Amazon Echo – the company's smart speaker system for the home – is at last going on sale in the UK.

Only available in the US until now, the Echo is a large cylindrical speaker powered by a digital assistant called Alexa. It works in a similar way to Apple's Siri or Google Assistant, but is slanted heavily towards home living.

The system is voice controlled and you can ask the Echo to play music from streaming services like Amazon Prime and Spotify. The cylindrical shape means the room is filled with 360 degree omni-directional audio.

But playing music at your request is far from the Echo's only party trick.

It's an intelligent speaker and can handle lots of different and often very specific instructions. You can ask the speaker for weather, news and traffic information, sports scores and more. Say "Alexa" and the speaker system lights up and fires into life, ready to pluck an answer to your query from the cloud. It can respond to "billions" of questions, says the Telegraph, within a second.

With third party app integration, you'll soon be able to order takeaways and shopping via the listening post too. Integration with apps like Uber is also on the table.

Know Your Mobile says apps like these could make the Echo a compelling device to have around the house. With every new voice-controlled app the system will only grow more intelligent – Amazon says it's as if the speaker is learning new skills every day and becoming handier and more proficient at completing tasks. The Echo will check automatically for software updates every night and you can manage the apps on your speaker via Amazon's website.

If you've got smart appliances and fixtures around the house you can make the most of the Echo by hooking them up to the speaker system for voice activation.

The Mirror says having a faceless device around the house that can listen in on you may be a little creepy, but the speaker will only transmit what you say to the web when it hears its name. You can mute the microphones altogether if you so wish.

Priced at £149.99, the Echo will go on sale over the coming weeks and will be available in either black or white.

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