The Amazon Echo is an always-on voice interface to the data center you don't understand. It sits in your living room answering questions and doing small chores while you try over and over to learn what it can do.
Echo lives in the kitchen next to the Technivorm-Moccamaster 3000. Only one makes coffee.
Echo routinely disappoints. It's a handy kitchen timer when your hands are full but not yet smart enough to time two things at once. Not yet.
Everything you say goes to Amazon's data center where the deep learning in their neural network tries to make sense of what you ask.
Echo's most clever feature is the phased array directional microphone that hears you clearly from anywhere in the room. No need to get up from your chair.
Echo is the VIC-20 of the Ambient Intelligence era. The co-evolution of learning begins.
Echo is the most ambient of the Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon race to own and deliver all knowledge to their respective subscribers. See Programming Paradigms
A year has passed. Like any website Echo changes, not always for the better.
Echo acquired a second timer which was heavily used cooking for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thank you.
Echo acquired an unfortunate awkward turn of phrase. The annoyingly verbose response "your timer will ring ten minutes from now" replaces the knowing confirmation "ten minutes starting now". Shut up Echo.