Is Amazon Echo a revolutionary device, or is it creepy as hell?

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Last night Amazon announced a new product called Amazon Echo – essentially a microphone and speaker that sits in the corner of your living room, and will constantly listen to you and respond to commands.

echo

Think Siri, but always on: You can ask it about the weather, to set reminders, to play music and more. Echo is hooked up to Amazon’s Cloud services, so will always get smarter as all of the processing takes places in Amazon’s data centres.

Amazon has even given the virtual assistant a name – no, not HAL but Alexa. To activate the device you simply have to say “Alexa”.

Whilst it is an interesting device I can’t help but wonder if this is potentially crossing a line into creepy? Whilst it is unlikely the NSA care about your opinions on what you’re watching on telly, the idea that everything you say could conceivably be listened to and processed is a bit weird, right? At least with the likes of Siri and Cortana you have to activate them manually.

The product is arguably reminiscent of when the Xbox One launched, and Microsoft required that the Kinect 2 camera be hooked up 24/7 – conceivably watching everything you do.

What’s interesting is that whilst Echo may not be a radical leap in terms of privacy expectations, it is interesting to see consider how much privacy we now willingly give up – whilst no one wants to live in an Orwellian nightmare, Amazon Echo is another example of how we’re theoretically willing to surrender another chunk of privacy, in exchange for a genuinely useful service – in this case, providing information and music.

What do you think? Is Amazon Echo cool or creepy? Let us know in the comments.

James O’Malley

5 comments

  • It’s not just Creepy, kiddies, it’s “Cloud Creepy(tm)”

    (which is sort of like normal creepy, but with an element of soulless corporate greed)

    Time to create a word to describe this:

    “Greepy”
    (Greed+creepy)

    So, let’s see how that sounds in a sentence: “The father compromised his family’s privacy by bringing home a Greepy device that could more accurately be described as a “bug”.

    And of course, these will NEVER be hacked and exploited! (palms face)

    It’s only a matter of months before a recording of some little starlet servicing her boyfriend or dishing on a fellow celebrity is lifted off of one of these and posted on Reddit.

    There are so many wonderful things technology could be doing, and yet the big companies are focused on using it to invade our privacy as a means to overcoming the fact that no one clicks on ads. What a pathetically limited short term greed-focused world view. Wake up, Silicon Valley, ads, whether targeted or not, are from an age when people actually BELIEVED pitch-men to some degree. It’s the 21st century and we know for a dead-cinch fact that you folks are untrustworthy and do not
    have our best interest in mind and that the more you target and the harder you sell something the worse it is (if it wasn’t so, you
    wouldn’t have to search so hard for an audience and sell it so hard). You can’t diminish the uselessness of advertising with targeting. You can’t make crap into value by finding new ways to annoy and badger people. Targeted advertising has been around for nearly a century using different means – and the more targeted advertising becomes, the worse it is. For God’s sake open your eyes and learn something for once, you greepy dullards.

  • The people in the ad sure were creepy as hell. I thought Amazon’s other ads were creepy (e.g., the guy videochatting with a customer rep via Kindle and saying they’d be friends, ugh), but this topped it. The people were all so flat and fake and soulless. It makes me feel like Amazon doesn’t know what normal human beings are like. Granted, the target demographic for an item like this might be the mindless consumer who prefers talking to machines rather than other human beings.

  • The idea of this seems a little redudant, as the concept of Cortana seems to dwalf it (no hands on experience granted). Seems like the need to make a physical object and create a market for something which any smart device can do. Something software can do. this being the only information i have to go off obviously doesnt sell me, Cortana (to name drop again) seems intuitive, and has personality. does Alexa? why Alexa? Its named echo, but I call it alexa? Is that an anagram? Wat the? i dont know if amazon werent so informative or this artical is. just makes me go back to my second sentence…

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