Thursday, 22 November 2018

The AmazonBasics Microwave is for those who are spoiled by voice commands

How much do you need your microwave experience to be streamlined? Is it annoying to have to press a few buttons? Are a microwave’s presets too complex to use?
Amazon seems to have different answers to these questions than the ones I’ve heard from fellow Verge co-workers and friends. It says it sees an opportunity in making a smart microwave, letting people use those advanced presets they normally don’t touch. Instead of having to press multiple buttons, you can just ask Alexa to heat an item, and it will determine heating times for items as varied as sweet potatoes and popcorn.
To accomplish this, Amazon made a microwave that communicates with an Echo to let you use voice commands for control. The $59.99 AmazonBasics Microwave has features that are typical for an affordable device in its category — including 700 watts of power, auto defrost features, and a popcorn button — but it also works with Alexa.
Setting up the AmazonBasics Microwave is fairly fast and simple: you’ll just need an Echo device (the microwave doesn’t actually have a microphone or speaker built in), an Alexa app, and a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi connection. The microwave is powered by Alexa Connect Kit, which runs on Bluetooth Low Energy and Wi-Fi to let Echo devices communicate. It also acts as a reference of Alexa Connect Kit for other device makers to learn from. The app prompts you to add your microwave as an appliance. Alternatively, you can just ask Alexa on your Echo to pair with your microwave. The overall process takes about 10 minutes, especially if the connection is slow. In that time, you could’ve finished setting up a regular microwave by plugging it in and setting the time.
The microwave does simplify things enough so you can say, “Alexa, microwave one potato” or walk over to the microwave, tap the button, and say, “one potato.” Alexa will say, “Okay,” and the microwave will automatically be set for six minutes and 30 seconds.
But the two potatoes (one sweet, one savory) I tried to heat up with the AmazonBasics Microwave were undercooked and almost raw. I had better results with popcorn, which came out just right with Alexa’s help, unlike a bag of popcorn I guesstimated and ended up burning. The difference is that a normal microwave will ask how heavy your potato is, but Alexa strangely doesn’t ask. And while you normally might not know exactly how long to heat your popcorn (the box gave me vague advice “not more than 4 minutes and sometimes less than 1.5 minutes”), Alexa does ask how many ounces the bag of popcorn is and times it accordingly.

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