Update: On May 9th, 2017, Amazon announced the release of Alexa Calling, their device-to-device communication feature. While the feature appears to allow the equivalent of a phone call from one device owner to another, as I hoped they would do, it does not appear to offer the intercom like functionality I propose below.
I love my Amazon Echo. I first bought the device because I wanted a small but good music speaker for my small studio apartment, and I liked the idea that I could play music from my Amazon music library. The Echo solved that need beautifully, and I soon fell in love with Alexa, the voice/AI software that powers Echo. I now also own an Echo Dot for my bathroom, and I use both of my Echo devices to do things like set a morning alarm, hear the news, get the weather, call an Uber, create shopping lists, get live updates on sports scores, assist me when cooking, hear my schedule for the next day, listen to recent tweets, and so, so much more. I believe we are still in the early days of what Echo/Alexa can do, we'll see an exponential addition of capabilities over the next couple of years.
This Christmas, I bought my parents an Echo Dot, and my sister received one for her home as well. I quipped to her that she'll love the Echo Dot so much, she'll soon end up with an Echo device in every major room of her house. I know I'd have more than 2 if I didn't live in a studio apartment!
The thought of my closest family members all having Echo devices, and the idea of my sister having one in each room of her bustling family home gave me an idea. Echo devices could do for voice-based communication what Apple's FaceTime did for video calling. In a world where we have an increasing reliance on text based communication such as SMS (texting) and Email, Amazon has the opportunity to usher in a new age of the telephone with device-to-device communication.
I'd love the ability to call my parents by simply speaking to my Echo and telling Alexa to connect me with them. On the other end, their Echo could tell them that I'd like to talk, and they could command their Echo to answer or take a message. As ridiculous as it sounds, removing the friction of dialing and holding the phone to my ear would lead me to more voice communication with my family, and less texting.
Another device-to-device application is as an instant home intercom system. With Echo devices in each room of my sister's home, she'd have a network of devices that she could use to communicate with her children and husband, no matter where they are in the house. Using her voice to call the kids down from the playroom for dinner, or asking her husband to bring a screwdriver in from the garage, at just $49.99 for the Echo Dot, the Echo family of products could inexpensively and less obtrusively do what so many electronics companies and home builders did in the 80s and 90s with ugly, in-wall intercom systems.
Amazon has a lot of opportunity ahead with Echo/Alexa, and a lot of tough decisions to make about what to/not to build. I'd love to see them add device-to-device voice communication, would you? Like this post and share on social media if you agree!