Monthly Archives: August 2016

Top Ten Amazon Echo Things To Do with Kids

My friend J. Money at Budgets Are Sexy recently got an Amazon Echo. Since he has kids around the same age as mine (3-4 years old), I thought I’d share some of the ways we’ve used our Echo.

And what better way than to do than with an old fashioned top ten list. Everyone loves them, right?

Top Ten Amazon Echo Things To Do with Kids

  1. Practice Speech – My oldest son was slow to start speaking and when he did, I was the only person who could understand him. I originally got the Echo because I thought that he’d enjoy asking Alexa about so much stuff that he’d work on his pronunciation so that she’d understand him. I don’t think it helped, but that might be because I didn’t stick with it or that he quickly improved so much on his own.
  2. Practice Spelling – We spell everything from our names to simple words like “ball.” One of my oldest’s favorite games is to find an object in the room and ask Alexa how it’s spelled. I think a lot of it is sticking, which pretty good for a 3 year old.
  3. “Alexa, spell supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” – It’s fun to throw this curveball at Alexa because she’ll spend the next 20 seconds or so calling out letters. It’s a nice silly way to break up the spelling game in #9.
  4. Simple Math – Alexa is great at adding and subtracting numbers (and probably more, but we haven’t gotten there). I can show my son what 2 and 3 M&Ms look like and we can count them to get to 5. Then we can reinforce that by asking Alexa what it is. We can even do the reverse and see if Alexa is right. (She hasn’t been wrong yet.)
  5. Fun Questions with Wise Answers – Here’s a list of 50 fun questions that Alexa has wise answers for. My favorite is the definitive answer to which came first, the chicken or the egg.
  6. Read a Kindle Book – It’s always fun to read a book together, but it’s also fun to have Alexa read it while the both of you follow along on a tablet. Robots reading, if you are young kid what’s not to like about that?
  7. Another Bunch of Fun Questions with Wise AnswersHere’s another list. My favorite is, “ALEXA, WHAT’S THE MASS OF THE SUN IN GRAMS?”
  8. Turn the lights on and off – If you have a compatible light switch or system such as Philips Hue, you can have fun with Echo’s smart home features.
  9. Open The Magic Door – There’s an Alexa Skill named The Magic Door which is like a Choose Your Own Adventure. It’s great for kids’ imagination.
  10. Play a Math Quiz – There is a very good math skill game called 1-2-3 Math which gives you math questions to answer. This is little advanced for my 3 year old, but I think he’ll be able to do the easy level in a year.

I don’t want to pretend that any of these things are going to change your life with your kids. However, that’s not really the point. Think of them as a nice bonus on top of all the other things that you can do with an Echo.

Alexa Powers Nucleus Anywhere Intercom

There’s an intriguing new Alexa powered device on Amazon. This one isn’t from Amazon, but instead is from a start-up, named Nucleus. That’s similar to Triby, another Alexa device by Invoxia.

So what’s a Nucleus Anywhere Intercom? Quick and dirty, it’s intercom/video calling hardware powered by Alexa. Here’s their video pitch:

That video should give you an idea that this is geared towards families and bringing people closer.

What are the specs? It’s essentially an 8-inch tablet with a wide-angle 5 megapixel camera. It has speakers and a microphone naturally. It has Ethernet and WiFi for internet connectivity. It requires an outlet or Power over Ethernet (PoE), so if wireless and mobility is your thing, you might be disappointed. A single unit is $249, but a pair can be bought for ~$200 each. You’ll likely want a pair too, because the sound of one intercom calling is a little like the sound of one hand clapping.

Nucleus Anywhere
Nucleus Anywhere

So where does Alexa fit in? In some ways it seems like an afterthought. You can press an Alexa button and use some (maybe even most?) of the Alexa services. However, it can’t play Pandora like the Echo.

And notice that you seem to have to press a button… you can’t just call out, “Alexa, call Grandma.” Granted that might get annoying, it was the first thing I thought of when I heard of an Alexa-powered intercom/video phone.

That might be a pessimistic view of what Alexa can do. You can still ask it to play certain artists/albums/songs, what the weather is, read the news, etc. So it feels a little like an Echo light, but with the big advantage of video calling.

There’s a lot of good things here and I’m tempted to buy in. However, there are a few things that are stopping me:

  • Price – For 3 rooms and 2 grandmother’s houses, it’s a thousand dollar purchase. Is a dedicated Skype device worth that? Amazon has been able to sell Fire tablets at around $40 a piece. I’m not saying these should get that low, but the tablets arguable have more functionality and an extra component or two (such as a battery).
  • Closed System – I couldn’t find out if I can use it to Skype with friends (and since it isn’t Apple, I’m sure it can’t Facetime). I’m more interested in the easy videophone aspect than the intercom aspect, but your family may be different.
  • Redundant – If you are already an Alexa fan such as myself, you probably have an Echo and a Dot or two.
  • Mobility – Even if the battery life was bad, it would be nice to take the call with you. What if the cat is doing something really cute in another room and you want to show grandma? You can’t.

I think I’ve been a little overcritical of the Nucleus Anywhere. Let me take a step back and realize that this is the first device from a start-up company. I can’t think of a version 1.0 that was perfect. I’m looking forward to seeing the next version.

I’m probably one of the frugal tech enthusiasts out there, so I don’t think I’d take a flyer on this unless it gets to the $99 range.