A year since Amazon launched its Echo intelligent assistant in a Bluetooth speaker and opened up its voice-controlled Alexa platform to developers, both were beginning to gain some traction, even with Echo's limitations. Now a third-party app called Josh builds upon Alexa to make Echo and other voice-controlled systems even more powerful.
Josh is essentially a software solution that connects a voice-controlled artificial intelligence with an array of smart home systems like Nest, Sonos or Lutron lighting. It includes a home base unit that plugs into the wall much like Echo itself, but is controlled via a desktop or laptop OS or as an iOS or Android app. This week, the Denver and Los Angeles-based startup behind Josh, JStar, sent us a video showing Josh running on an Amazon Echo and the results were interesting.
Josh appears to work like any of the hundreds of other skills that developers have added to Alexa's library over the past year. You have to first address the Echo with its wake word (usually either "Alexa" or "Echo") and then ask it to "Tell Josh" to execute a command or series of commands. A few of Josh's capabilities exceed what the Alexa platform can do natively.
In the video (embedded at the bottom of this article), we see how Josh can be set to speak in a variety of accents and male or female voices, be it British, American or Indian accents among others.
Josh also brings Sonos control to Echo, something that isn't among Alexa's many native skills, although it is already possible to use similar platforms like Yonomi or IFTTT to control Sonos via an Echo.
Perhaps the most compelling ability that Josh brings to Echo and other Alexa devices is its ability to understand complex demands and more natural speech. On its own, Alexa can just handle one request at a time, but Josh seems to be more on par with Google's voice assistant and its ability to comprehend more complex requests – or at least a string of requests like "Turn off the lights and fan and tell me what time it is."
We asked co-founder Alex Capecelatro when Josh might be available as an Alexa skill to all users and he told us it's yet to be approved by Amazon.
"Timing is a little unclear but we wanted to share," he wrote in an email to Gizmag. "Similar to that Echo controlling Tesla Summon video [the video is] something cool to show people what's coming."