Does the Amazon Echo Show chart a new future for virtual assistants?


Curiosity made me purchase my first Amazon Echo. I went all in with Alexa after ordering my first one. It’s funny now, how I nearly forgot about the order when it arrived.

My Echo Show arrived on June 28th. While I won’t award Amazon any product design awards for the hardware, the inclusion of the camera and screen speak to a new and different future for this Amazon device. After I unboxed my Echo Show, I almost immediately did a video chat with a former colleague in Florida. Granted it wasn’t professional grade video conferencing but it was an OK experience for a first generation consumer device. Echo Show could make video conferencing accessible to mass consumers.

I like the potential of the Echo Show for light video conferencing between family, friends, and old colleagues who live a distance from each other. Hopefully, we’ll see some video conferencing and unified communications (UC) vendors develop Alexa Show skills to integrate their platforms with this new class of hardware.

However, to take advantage of the Echo Show’s screen, you’ll have to give the device a prominent spot in the room. For example, I had the first generation Amazon Echo in my home office sitting behind my cable broadband modem and wireless router. It was behind the scenes but always there to play music, follow my other commands, and to turn my lights off and on. When I unboxed my new Echo Show, I had to give it a new spot on one of my home office desks to the side of where I sit.

The Echo Show speakers sound better than the speakers on my other Echos. I’ll be working at home a bit more during the next few weeks, so I hope to give the Amazon Echo Show speakers a proper workout with the Spotify playlists I play for background music.

Right out of the gate, Amazon is giving developers the tools to build skills for the Echo Show. The public documentation they’ve released should hopefully seed new skills that’ll attract even more consumer users, eHealth, and even business users to the platform.

In fact, there are already smart home camera vendors like Arlo and Nest releasing Alexa skills to enable users to view camera footage from the Echo Show’s screen. I normally check my smart home cameras from either my iPad or iPhone.

I wonder what the future of hardware expansion is for the Echo Show and other similar devices. I don’t see any kind of ports on the device, but I imagine they must be on a roadmap somewhere as more enterprise and eHealth users of the Echo Show make their presence known.

One thing that still dogs me about the original Amazon Echo is that it’s so easy to forget commands for Amazon Echo skills. The Echo Show runs teasers about Echo commands at the bottom of the screen which I found helpful. I also like how the Echo Show displays my calendar on its screen.

The Echo Show only puts Amazon further out ahead in the virtual assistant market. Opening up Amazon Echo Show skills to the widest audience of developers is only going to help them maintain that lead.

Share your thoughts about the Echo Show in the comments.

Will Kelly is a technical writer and content creator based in the Washington, DC area. He has worked with commercial, federal, higher education, and publishing clients to develop technical and thought leadership content. His technology articles have been published by TechBeacon, CNET TechRepublic, Network World, Toolbox.com, ZDNet.com, and others. Follow Will on Twitter:@willkelly.


Originally published at willkelly.blog on July 6, 2017.

Amazon Echo and its future in healthcare

Image courtesy of the Amazon Media Room

I fell hard for Amazon Echo when I bought the first one for my home office. It kicked off a new hobby for me in tinkering with smart home technologies. Alexa is hooked up to lights around my house. I also have plans for more smart home projects in 2017. Lately, I’ve been doing some practical thinking about how Amazon Echo could influence the future of healthcare.

While I watched my own health insurance rates sky rocket, ObamaCare exchanges implode, and the lack of accountability for it all I’ve come to expect from our politicians, I do see a glimmer of hope in the creative applications of technology in healthcare especially in elder care and telehealth might help fix some of the damage being done by our politicians to the health insurance system in this country.

In particular, I’ve very interested in the potential of Amazon Alexa for medication reminders and other alerts for the elderly. Even Jeff Bezos sees a big future for Alexa in healthcare. There are already some Alexa users coming up with ingenious ways to use Alexa to care for their disabled and aging family members including opening up the family member’s world to audio books and being able to monitor the family member’s interactions with Alexa throughout the day.

On a related note, when QVC first began to sell to Amazon Alexa, I saw it as the device crossing a major adoption hurdle taking the device beyond early adopters, techies, and e-commerce die hards into a whole new audience. When Alexa gets into an even wider customer base, the charm of Alexa skills gives way to practical home applications and opens the door even further into potential healthcare applications.

David E. Williams in Amazon Echo’s Alexa has great potential in healthcare points out it’s a device that patients and doctors can use equally well and that a patient could use the same device at home that was used in the hospital. Alexa is hands free (a bonus for the elderly and injured.

While I did a quick search through the skills available in the Alexa app. I would describe the Health & Fitness category is still growing. However, I think I might have gotten a step ahead of myself. The Alexa Fund and some of the projects its funding or will fund are going to help dictate a lot about the future of Alexa in healthcare.

Final thoughts

What I think will be interesting to see if Amazon Web Services (AWS) and healthcare IT firms begin to build services offering around Amazon Alexa. That’ll be an inflection point when I think Amazon Alexa’s healthcare future will be undeniable. Alexa could join the league of other technologies like wearables to help improve healthcare outcomes.

Do you see a future for Alexa in healthcare? Why? Why not?


Hi! My name is Will Kelly. I’m a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. I’ve worked with clients like NetApp, Dell, and NeuStar to develop technical, training, and thought leadership content. My articles have been published by TechBeacon, Projects@Work, CNET TechRepublic, Network World, Toolbox.com, ZDNet.com, and others. Follow me on Twitter:@willkelly.