When Amazon first announced the Echo–an always-on speaker slash Siri-in-a-can tied into the company’s services–we were bullish about it. Although the Echo couldn’t do much at release, we saw it as a step towards the ambient computer science fiction has been promising us for a years: a JARVIS-like voice UI at the center of our future connected homes. All it needed was some extra connectivity to let it drive more than just Amazon’s service.
Now, six months after release, the Amazon Echo is starting to get that connectivity. It’s all thanks to IFTTT, an Internet recipe site that lets you connect various Internet services together in logical workflows: if this, then that. IFTTT is now tapping into Amazon Alexa, the voice engine that powers the Echo, and allowing you to connect it to other services like Gmail, Evernote, Twitter, Google Drive, and more.
Right now, IFTTT’s Alexa channel focuses entirely on supercharging your Echo’s to-do list functionality. So, for example, you can set up a recipe that takes any item you tell your Echo to add to your shopping list (let’s say, adult diapers), and have it automatically emailed to your spouse (“Please pick up adult diapers on the way home”), synced to your Evernote, or even blasted out on Twitter (“Help! I’m out of adult diapers!”).
This is a very small first step to turning the Amazon Echo into a true ambient computer, true. In our original story, we talked about how, one day, the Amazon Echo could tell you where family members are in your house, call you an Uber, or even start playing music to lighten your mood automatically based on the sound of your voice. Although support is still remedial, the fact that IFTTT can now interact with the Echo at all opens the door for all that to happen down the line, even if Amazon doesn’t program the Echo to do that themselves.
You can check out IFTTT’s Alexa channel here.