Hal 9000, Jarvis from Iron Man and the Enterprise computer in Star Trek are good examples of how convenient voice-activated computers can be (when they aren't trying to kill everyone). Of course, being science fiction, those examples are a bit more advanced than what we can pull off now.
Don't get us wrong; Apple's Siri, Google's OK Google and Microsoft's Cortana are good at what they do, but they're still very limited. However, one company is starting to pull away from the competition, and people are noticing.
That company is Amazon and the gadget we're talking about is the Echo and its built-in digital assistant "Alexa." You might remember that when this sleek, cylindrical gadget first came out, it fell into the category of "Great, but why do I need it?"
The microphone and speaker hardware were top-notch. In fact, it could pick up voice commands from across the room while it was playing music. However, the best it could do was play music, some scheduling, create a grocery list, tell you the weather and stock prices ... and that was about it.
At $200, it was an expensive toy, and while a number of early adopters bought in, just about everyone else decided to wait. So, why does it look like Amazon's Echo could be the Next Big Thing with consultant Scot Wingo saying it could be a $1 billion business?