WHAT I’VE GOT: Amazon Echo

I sort of a have a thing for voice interfaces, and non-screen interactions more generally. The Amazon Echo is one of the few things I’ve used that actually feels like the future — it just works, while working in both new and old ways.

Of course, it automates or simplifies a bunch of straightforward tasks: things I was perfectly able to do with a phone or (gasp) clock, but now can do while doing other things! Being able to set a time from the kitchen without having to take my heads away from cooking just feels intuitive, as does asking for the weather while standing in front of my closet and deciding on what to wear.

But the Echo also has a few deeper, more interesting features. Connecting to some Phillips Hue lights has actually changed my behavior patterns in and around the houses; a few basic IFTTT applets have started to connect my Echo to a bunch of services. In many ways, the Echo has started to become a general assistant for my digital and physical life.

Last but not least, there’s the design of the thing. The ring of color-controlled LEDs is one of the best UI I’ve seen in the past few years. It’s expressive, responsive and very clean — in many ways, giving the whole device a strong personality. More broadly, Amazon made it into an object: a tangible artifact for a nebulous retail network. I like it a lot, and someday it’ll be the first in my collection of sleek, minimalist computing cylinders