Alexa might not yet be the household name that Siri already is, but it could very soon be. That is, if Amazon really starts pushing its Echo cloud-based home assistant. Alexa, the personification of that product, has just gotten a bit better but, quite ironically, not through Amazon’s own heavy lifting. The smart assistant has been endowed with some new smarts thanks to the popular web mashup service IFTTT. Now you can let Alexa do much more than just controlling you music or your smart appliances. Now you can even let it publicize your todo list, if you so wish.
Amazon revealed Echo last year without much fuss or fanfare, making is wonder if Amazon is actually serious in this rather unexpected and surprising product that doesn’t seem to mesh with its core retail business. That impression was cemented when Echo/Alexa didn’t really come with even some of the basic bells and whistles that you’d expect from a smart assistant. It was definitely no Siri, at least not yet. Amazon continued to grow Alexa, though rather slowly.
This IFTTT integration, however, could very boost that evolution. It practically makes Echo useful beyond the rather constrained confines of Amazon’s intended use cases. IFTTT has been utilized to tie up a device or platform with dozens of web services and to cook up functionality and scenarios that the original designers or developers probably never thought of or intended. Connecting with Evernote, Todoist, Twitter, Gmail or even Nest drastically expands Alexa’s reach.
Amazon added support for Hue and WeMo to Echo last month, but now users will be able to do the same with their Nest smart thermostats. You can automatically email yourself or add an item to your Todoist list whenever you add something to your Amazon shopping list. You can email yourself todos or, if you’ prefer some public accountability, post it on Twitter. You can even fire off emails to someone using only your voice thanks to a hack that we’re not sure might be around forever.
Short of having an SDK, which Amazon is working, IFTTT might be the closest we’ll get to having a wider third-party integration with Amazon Echo. That said, Amazon doesn’t seem to be moving quickly with its rather odd smart assistant but it should probably start doing so if it’s in anyway serious about this product. Cortana is growing up fast and will soon be in almost every household as well.