Alexa on the Web

With the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) development kit developers can access Alexa from devices other than the Amazon Echo, Dot or Tap voice assistants.  We have seen how a variety of third party manufacturers have created things like a watch, an intercom, a lamp and other connected speakers which make use of this powerful service.  Now there is a way to access it from a regular web browser.

Did you know that you can access Alexa from a web browser?  There is no cost, and it is pretty easy to setup.  It gives you the flexibility of using Alexa from a remote location and even controlling your home automation.  This works anywhere you can get to the Internet.  This was actually created by a third party developer for testing skills, those pieces of software which extend Alexa's capability.  Yet, this can be used by anyone with an Amazon account. 

How it Works

Just go to Echosim.io.  You should use the Chrome, (in Android, Linux, macOS and Windows), FireFox or Opera web browser.  It does not work with Safari for Mac users or with Internet Explorer for Windows users.  This is not because of Alexa, because the site uses a technology called WebRTC to access the microphone in your computer which these other browsers don't (yet) support.  Even worst, the site doesn't tell you this until you have logged in with your Amazon credentials.  

When you click the "Login with Amazon" button, you will be brought to an Amazon page to type in your credentials.  It will also show you what information you are sharing with the web based Alexa. This is all very similar to how many popular social network sites let you login with their credentials.  You'll see something like this:

Assuming you have the proper browser and have logged in you are ready to go.  You do not use the wake word.  Instead you either tap and hold down on the space bar as you speak or click and hold down the right mouse button as you speak.  You will see on screen indicators that she is listening, processing the commands and then speaking the result.  Make sure your system volume control is set correctly. 

To me, the ability to access home automation commands remotely through this browser is a very cool feature.  It is so easy to login from work and give commands to turn lights on or off at home.  

There is a limitation with listening to music.  You can't.  If you ask to play a song, it does not respond verbally, although the Alexa Companion App will show the music you requested in the home screen.  If you say to play it on a service (like Pandora) it will say it can't play music.  I suspect it has to do with intellectual property rights, and Amazon is careful to be on the conservative side.  Remember, the Alexa enabled watch also does not allow listening to music.

You'll also notice that if you now go into the Alexa Companion App, you'll see a new device listed when you choose the Settings tab. 

Give it a shot and let me know what you think.  

 

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