I purchased (or asked for an invitation to be allowed to purchase an Echo from Amazon) last December and finally got invited a few months ago.
The Echo is a small circular set of speakers and electronics that is 10 inches high and has a diameter of 4 inches. It connects to the Internet wirelessly.
It is pretty idiot-proof to install. Takes 10 minutes or less and all you do is to run a simple program that asks you a few basic questions and the name-password of the network you want to use. It then automatically connects you to the Internet and automatically installs any updates in the firmware since the unit was manufactured. After that you just leave it on all of the time.
You wake up the Echo by saying “Alexa” and then giving a command or asking a question. You need not ask the question/command using a rigid format but rather in normal conversational phrasing. Among the commands/questions you can give are “what is the weather?” or “note this to do” or “set alarm for 30 minutes (good for naps) or 7 AM” or “play music by the Rolling Stones” or “who is Charles Manson?” or “who won the men’s football (or soccer) championship?” or “what is the population of …?” or “what is the news?” Invaluable for the blind or motion disabled who cannot get up to go to the computer and Google it. Invaluable for those with failing memory who wonder who the President was the year they were born. Invaluable for those who want to make a grocery list “Alexa add … to my grocery list” as they remember something they need. Invaluable for those who want to note appointments, activities, and other information. Invaluable for me as I work on a computer because I normally forget what I sat down to do before I can move my fingers to the keyboard and I seem to forget all of the things I need at the grocery store except for soft drinks and ice cream (always remember those).
Medicare or the NHS should be buying one of these for every disabled person because they are exceptionally cost-effective. They cost $179. They should pay for themselves in 1-3 months as doctor appointments are not missed, unnecessary emergency room visits are avoided because you remember your primary care appointment, caregivers are less burdened, medications are taken as prescribed cutting unnecessary calls to doctors, feelings of isolation helplessness may be lessened, and there can be a “conversation” (albeit with the Internet, not a person) going on at any time. And the Internet can help fill in missing memories as a personal memory base is created over time.
Disabled yourself? Have a family member who has early stage dementia? Blind? Have a child in school? Feel like listening to the Rolling Stones or Beethoven Symphonies on an excellent speaker?
Try one of these devices as they may help many. Also extremely useful for the average person going through an average day (“Alexa play the Allman Brothers” or “Alexa who was Harry Truman?”).