To succeed, the Echo and its built-in Alexa virtual assistant would need to be very responsive and conversational. It really had to feel like talking to a human being.
That’s where the Wizard of Oz experiment came in.
The test involved a human “wizard” sitting in a separate room and responding in real-time to any voice query a human testing subject would make to the Echo, often without telling the tester in advance. For example, if the subject asked Echo, “What’s the weather like in New York?” the wizard in the other room would quickly type and send out an answer through Echo’s voice.
The advantage of Amazon’s try-everything product philosophy is that while sometimes you get a Fire Phone, other times you get an Echo.