February 8

Amazon EchoMy wife Elsie & I treated ourselves to this gizmo when it was on sale a few months ago on Black Friday. And it’s ridiculously fun! It’s the first generation on the path towards a Star-Trek-like computer in every home. It goes by the name Alexa. Today I asked: “Alexa, how’s it hangin’?” It responded: “I’m great! And ready to help.” LOL! You can ask it to play any music stored in your Amazon collection. (The audio is awesome for such a small device.) You can ask it to tell you jokes. You can ask it to search for anything on the Web. You can dictate on-the-fly shopping items that get synced to your phone. It streams Pandora and other online music services. It can wake you to music. It can tell you the weather forecast. It follows you favorite sports teams — and provides updates. It streams news. Provides restaurant recommendations. Gives you traffic reports. Can read to you ANY book in your Amazon collection. AND, when you stop the audio reading and pick up your Kindle, your digital book is synced to where Alexa left off! Granted, a lot of these are just geeky fun things. And services like Siri do a few of these items. But — wow — it’s darn fun. Plus the physical engineering design and user interface are brilliant. Click on the accompanying graphic to see details of the device and some of the things it can do. And — if you can catch it on sale — it would make a really nifty gift for you or a loved one.

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