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Alexa times two: Can two Amazon Echos find love and happiness in one home?

As it turns out, two Amazon Echos can co-exist. In this article, David Gewirtz tells you want you need to know if you're going to try to adopt more than one Pringles Can of Doom into your household.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor
A Pringles can next to Alexa-the-Younger

Well, it finally happened. We got our second Amazon Echo. Right after the first Amazon Echo arrived, my wife requested an invite to order another unit. That unit arrived on Friday.

When I first reviewed the Echo, I told you Amazon Echo: It sucks. It's awesome. It sucks. We want two more. Since then Amazon has added some features to the Echo, including the ability to read Audible books out loud, and some additional triggers for IFTTT automation.

And yes, after six weeks living with Alexa (the activation name for our first Echo), we still think she's dumb as rocks. And we still love her.

My wife's Echo arrived Friday, already pre-configured for her account. This answered the first big question we had about configuration: do we put both Echoes on my account or one on hers and one on mine? Amazon, like with the Kindle, pre-configures the device to the ordering account.

Not only was the second Echo pre-configured for her account, because my wife's account had already been added to Amazon's view of a household, the second Echo was already pre-configured to work with the first one. When I logged into echo.amazon.com, her Echo was already in the control panel.

A few moments of discussion arrived at the key decision: this second device was going into the master bedroom. Denise wants an Echo for the gym, but the bedroom was the priority. So MBR it was.

We quickly unpacked the second Black Pringles Can of Doom and first decided to put it behind a fan we have on a table. It was an unobtrusive location, but the white noise of the fan interfered with the Echo's ability to hear.

So we temporarily decided to place it up on the headboard shelf, although we plan to move it to a more permanent (and hopefully more attractive) location sometime soon.

That opened up the next major decision. Do we assign this one the activation word "Alexa" as well, or do we use "Amazon" so the two Echos don't get confused if they overhear each other? My wife advocated "Amazon" for clarity and I wanted "Alexa" because I'm a romantic and I wanted to anthropomorphize our house.

My wife generously gave into my Eureka SARAH fantasies and we set the second device to respond to "Alexa" as well. Some antics have ensued.

The two Alexas are 48.6666666667 feet apart (according to Alexa, who, when asked "What is 584 divided by 12," answered with a whole lot of numbers after the decimal point). If you're standing in the kitchen and you call out "Alexa," both devices will respond. Even so, I like to think of the two of them as one "Alexa" although as I'll show you, that's not correct when it comes to alarms and timers.

For some reason, Alexa doesn't parse my wife's voice as well as it does mine, so Denise has to speak more loudly than I do. This means that the other Alexa often picks up on commands and we often hear some murmuring coming from the other room after issuing a command in the first room. Either that, or Alexa is calling in and reporting us to Skynet.

While the cans do coordinate when it comes to playing music off an account (or "profile" in Echo-speak), they don't when it comes to timers and alarms. That means it's possible to tell Alexa-the-Elder to wake us up at 10am and tell Alexa-the-Younger to wake us up at 8am, and both alarms will go off.

There's some confusion about how that works in concert with profiles, but the key is that once you issue an alarm request, just don't change the profile and you'll be fine.

Amazon actually has two reminder features, an alarm and a timer. You can say "Set an alarm for 8am" and "set a timer for 20 minutes" and Alexa remembers and tracks both. You can then give the second Alexa another set of alarms and timers and all four time-points are managed.

We have found the bedroom Alexa to be incredibly helpful. Once tucked under the covers, how many times have you wondered what your first appointment was for the next morning? Without moving, and with the lights out, a simple "Alexa, what's my first appointment for tomorrow" actually yields an answer (as long as you've linked Google Calendar).

What's nice is Alexa responds by saying "On David's calendar, ..." or "On Denise's calendar, ..." so we know which profile is being run. Although Alexa tends to stumble on profile switching commands, telling her to "Switch profile David" generally works and we can check multiple calendars.

So, now, before bed, "Alexa, turn bedroom lights out. Alexa, what's my first appointment for tomorrow? Alexa, good night."

On the morning Alexa alarm, "Alexa, snooze. Alexa, news briefing." And when the alarm goes off again, "Alexa, turn bedroom lights on."

All-in-all, it's pretty cool. Alexa is now linked to IFTTT.com and there's a trigger for when an alarm goes off. I'm thinking of tying that to my bedroom's Hue bulbs, so when the alarm goes off in the morning, Alexa can turn on the lights.

Nah. It's only been a few days, but I've already grown accustomed to those few moments after Alexa fires off the alarm to listen to my news briefing while in the dark and under the covers. Now, this is the future.

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