Amazon’s Echo isn’t available here in the UK yet. This is very aggravating for those of us who pride ourselves on early adoption. For the uninitiated, Echo’s an all-in-one speaker and voice-command device that works with Amazon’s Alexa voice service. Using an Echo, Alexa can answer verbal questions and integrate with a bunch of the connected objects you might have in your house, like lights, music, thermostats and all that good smart-home stuff. It can also provide you with weather forecasts, interact with your calendar and plumb the cold, cold depths of Wikipedia.
Happily for those of us outside the US wanting to sink our teeth into the bold new world of virtual assistants, Amazon’s made a guide to setting up Alexa on your Raspberry Pi which will work wherever you are. You’ll need a Pi 2 or a Pi 3. The Raspberry Pi version differs in one important way from the Echo: the Echo is always on, and always listening for a vocal cue (usually “Alexa”, although users can change that – useful if your name is Alexa), which raises privacy concerns for some. The Raspberry Pi version is not an always-on listening device; instead, you have to press a button on your system to activate it. More work for your index finger, more privacy for your living-room conversations.
Let us know if you end up building your own Echo; it’s much less expensive than the official version, and 100% more available outside the USA as well.