Amazon's virtual assistant is available in a $90 to $200 household appliance, via Android and iOS apps, and now in your web browser.
Well, mostly available.
Inspired by a hackathon project, Amazon has released EchoSim, a virtual Echo which is less Alexa in your web browser than it is a tool for developers. It is being pitched as a way for developers to refine specific "Alexa skills".
Echosim.io lives in your browser, so anyone, anywhere can access it and test their Alexa skills. You no longer need an Alexa-enabled device to test your skills. Developers worldwide can use Echosim.io to experience Alexa. Its simplicity makes it easy for anyone to understand what an Echo is and what it does without having to explain Alexa’s unique UI.
I spent a few minutes playing with it, and it really is limited.
You can tell it to read an ebook to you, and it will acknowledge but never actually read the ebook. (In fact, it will only acknowledge the audiobook, and not the ebook.) And you'll also need to use your mouse to press the button on the screen so that the virtual Echo knows to listen to you, and process what you're saying.
So this really is just a tool for developers, which is a pity. If I could play with a full-featured Alexa in my web browser, one with the full voice recognition features, it might convince me that it's worth buying the hardware.