Dash Wand With Alexa Makes Alexa Portable

When Amazon announced the new Dash Wand with Alexa, I was immediately intrigued but not for the reasons Amazon would like. The Dash Wand is supposed to be a shopping tool but my only thought was, “Portable Alexa!”

The Dash Wand is not yet available outside the U.S.

 

Dash Wand With Alexa

 

What The Dash Wand Is For, And Why I’ll Never Use It That Way
Amazon intends for the Dash Wand to be tied very tightly to its Amazon Fresh grocery service, so much so that (for a limited time, at least) the device ships with a $20 Amazon Fresh credit that’s applied to your first AF order, essentially making the Wand free. In Amazon’s demonstration video, the Dash wand is used to add items to an Amazon shopping cart and initiate one-click style grocery purchases, via either voice commands or using the wand’s built-in barcode scanner. Alexa functionality is shown kind of incidentally, and mostly limited to kitchen and cooking related uses like converting ingredient units for recipes.

 

 

There are some problems with the demo video scenarios, at least from my perspective. Using the Wand as these people do means being willing to buy stuff without knowing what it costs: Alexa does not read the prices to you.

While the video makes it seem as if virtually any item you might like to re-order can be bar scanned, in reality the library of bar codes the Wand recognizes is pretty limited. Also, the wand doesn’t currently have a very good feedback system for letting you know whether or not the barcode was recognized. There’s an error message from Alexa that’s supposed to notify you if the barcode is unrecognized and prompt you to say the name of the product, but in my tests the message did not consistently fire.

Some consumers have concerns about how the Wand selects items you order from Amazon’s vast array of sellers and products. In my own experiments the Wand successfully fetched items I’d previously ordered from the same sellers, even though the items were available from multiple other sellers, at various prices, at the time. However, if the sellers I ordered from previously had been sold out I’m sure the Wand would’ve just gone to the next most popular seller offering the item, at whatever price.

Still, not being able to comparison shop by price, or even know what price I’m being charged, is a deal breaker for me when it comes to using the Wand for shopping.

 

What I Will Use The Dash Wand For
They don’t shout it from the rooftops, but the Alexa functionality you get with the Wand is much more extensive than what’s shown in the video. Audio streaming and audio-intensive stuff like music, audiobooks, Kindle book text to speech, radio and podcast playback aren’t supported, and neither are timers or alarms (though I bet timers will be coming—for a device intended to be kitchen-centric, it’s an essential feature), but almost everything else Alexa can do IS supported.

Jokes. Factual queries. Local business information. Math questions. Smart light bulb control. Calendar. Shopping list (of course). IMDB movie ratings and trivia lookup. Weather. Traffic. Alexa skills. All at the push of a button, instead of having to pull out a phone or tablet and fire up the Alexa app.

There are some kind of oddball exclusions, though. On the Dash Wand, Alexa can’t currently tell you about movie times, read your reminders or play your Flash Briefing. It’s also important to know that there’s no volume control, and the Wand’s speaker quality is pretty low.

Still, while I can’t say I’ve tested every single Alexa function, I’ve found enough capability there to feel this is a very useful device in terms of its portable Alexa capabilities alone. This is pocket-sized Alexa you can take with you, as far as your WiFi signal carries. Students working in a room away from the household Echo can get homework help. Skill developers who don’t have an Echo or Dot near their workstation for testing will find the Dash Wand with Alexa very helpful. Take the Wand out to the patio or garage with you, so Alexa’s at the ready whenever a question comes to mind, or as soon as it’s time to turn on the smart lights.

 

If you’ve ever wished you had a pocket-sized, portable Alexa device the Wand may be just what you’re looking for, whether you intend to use it for shopping or not.

 

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