The Tech Gadget Lisa is Crazy About and Why It’s So Cool: Amazon Echo

Millions of us already rely on Siri (that disembodied voice on our iPhones) to find us the nearest gas station, make hands-free calls and answer random questions. Amazon Echo now offers that same kind of voice-activated help throughout your house.

Amazon Echo and TuneInThere’s a lot of good gadgetry in the Iron Man movies, but my favorite is Jarvis, the virtual butler in Tony Stark’s house. He anticipates Tony’s every need, controls his home technology, even comments on his personal life.

Jarvis immediately came to mind when I heard about the new Amazon Echo from longtime Premium Member Jennifer from California. She raved about it so enthusiastically I bought one!

For $179, the Amazon Echo gives you “an always-listening Siri for your living room,”as FastCompany.com describes it. “It’s Amazon’s vision of the platform of the future, one that gives you the ability to control your home by voice.”

So why am I, a genealogy podcaster, blogging about the Amazon Echo? Well, it works as a whole-house sound system for listening to music, audio books and–you guessed it–podcasts! Thanks to the smartphone, podcast listening has become much more convenient thanks to native podcast apps like Apple’s “Podcasts”and our own Genealogy Gems Podcast app. But when it comes to listening at home, you may not always want to be tethered to your smartphone or iPod. Now, with the Echo, you don’t have to be.

GGP tunein The Genealogy Gems Podcast is now on the Echo. To the best of my knowledge, podcasts are only available on the Echo via TuneIn. I knew as soon as I fell in love with Amazon Echo that The Genealogy Gems Podcast needed to be there. And now it is! TuneIn has added the Genealogy Gems podcast to its lineup so you can listen with the Amazon Echo. Click here to visit our TuneIn page.

But using the Echo for listening is just the beginning! “The key is what’s inside: Alexa, an always-listening Siri for your living room,” says that same Fastcompany.com article. “It’s Amazon’s vision of the platform of the future, one that gives you the ability to control your home by voice.”

how to use the amazon Echo

my Amazon Echo fresh out of the box

For example? It syncs with Google Calendar. Sweet! When I need to know the next deadline coming up, I ask Alexa. When I get an inspiration for the next podcast episode in the middle of making dinner (with marinade up to my elbows) I just tell Alexa to add it to my To Do list. And when I use that last clove of garlic, I just say “Alexa, add garlic to the shopping list.”

The Echo can also read you breaking headlines, tell you the weather forecast, set a timer or alarm for you, and interact with other home technologies that are gradually gaining that capacity. And of course it can answer your random questions, too. (Try these fun questions and commands from other Echo owners.)

where does the cord go on the Amazon Echo?

The most challenging part of installation: “Where does the plug go?” Right here in the bottom of the Echo!

I’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth out of Echo! I just call her name and give her a command and she does it. I’m surprised how much I enjoy having her in the kitchen.

If you decide to purchase Amazon Echo, thanks for using our links! Your purchases support the free Genealogy Gems podcast and all the free content on our website.

Amazone Echo and Howie

My dog Howie listening to Alexa (you can tell Alexa is talking because the top lights up)

We All Have a Family History Story to Tell

Here’s an inspiring example of a quick and easy way to tell your story. Every one of us is deeply connected to history through our family stories. In fact, exploring your family history story can help you learn more about your place in history and what makes you, you. 

Tell Your Family History Story with Animoto

Were you one of those kids sitting in history class bored to tears? Was the common teenage mantra  “what’s this got to do with me?” running through your brain? While the teacher’s lecture may have seemed disconnected, nothing could have been further from the truth. Every one of us is deeply connected to history through our family stories. In fact, exploring your family history story can help you learn more about your place in history and what makes you, you.

(Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Thank you for supporting the Genealogy Gems blog!)

We all have a story to tell about our place in history and Animoto is an easy and powerful way to tell that family history story. I’ve been sharing my thoughts on creating family history stories on my Genealogy Gems Podcast and in videos on my Genealogy Gems YouTube channel. One of my listeners and viewers, Doug Shirton, has enthusiastically embraced the idea of video storytelling and recently shared his video with me.

Doug says “I have been wanting to do a video for a long time…Animoto was so easy.” Take a few minutes and get inspired by watching Doug’s video Genealogy Journey; Doug Shirton by clicking here.

family history story

I love the elements that Doug wove into his video. Not only did he include individual photographs of himself and his ancestors, but he also dragged and dropped into his Animoto timeline a full page family tree chart. Doug used the “Rustic” video style (one of my favorites) which is perfectly suited for his old-timey photos.

He also used music in an innovative way to tell his family history story. Rather than settling on just one song, he used portions of multiple tracks. This technique moves the viewer through the emotional levels he was striving to convey.

Adding Music to Your Family History Story

All great movies have a soundtrack! Animoto allows you to choose from their music library or add your own. Adding music to your family history video is very simple. To add additional songs, simply click the plus sign under the timeline. Animoto’s “edit song and pacing” feature makes it easy to get everything to fit perfectly.

we all have a story to tell

MUSIC SEARCH TIP: In addition to being able to upload your own songs, Animoto’s robust music library is brimming with songs that will help you hit just the right note. In addition to the filter boxes, don’t miss the handy search field at the very bottom of the list of filters. Enter a keyword to suit your mood and then scroll back up to the top of the page to pick from the results.

Choosing the Focus of Your Family History Story

Family trees are very far-reaching indeed. So many direct line and collateral lines, often spanning the globe. Doug was wise to select one family history story within his tree: his Ontario, Canada pioneer ancestors.

Focusing on a particular line of your family, or a single story makes creating your video more manageable for you and, frankly, more enjoyable to watch for your viewer. Keeping your video fairly short is also a good idea. Doug’s is just 4 minutes and I recommend going no longer than five. This is particularly important when you plan to share it on social media where attention-spans are short.

Family History Story Ideas

Here are a few ideas of stories you could explore:

  • The story of your most recent immigrant ancestor
  • A family history story that runs through your family tree, such as three generations of musicians
  • How one of your ancestral families survived a natural disaster like the Johnston Flood or the Great San Francisco Earthquake
  • The history of a first name that was used over multiple generations in your family

The idea here is to select a family history story that is short, thematic, and compelling to watch.

Need More Ideas?

Visit my How to Create Family History Videos page for more ideas and step-by-step instructions for videos with Animoto, There’s no better time than now to tell your story! We would love for you to share your family history story video on our Facebook page.

Here’s the book that will help you cultivate and record your story: Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

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