Amazon has just launched a new device that’s kind of like Apple’s Siri… but it’s for your home, not your smartphone.
Amazon Echo is an internet-connected speaker can play music, answer questions, set reminders, and answer questions you ask.
The Echo has a list price of $199, but for a limited time Amazon Prime members will be able to order one for $99… but you’ll need to request an invitation first.
You can think of Echo as a smart speaker: it has a 2 inch tweeter, a 2.5 inch woofer, and a reflect port that Amazon says results in deeper sounds. You can stream music from Amazon or from third-party services including iTunes, Pandora, and Spotify using a mobile app on your phone or simply by asking the Echo to play music using your voice.
It can also provide news updates from NPR, ESPN, and other internet radio apps, play alarms (which you can set and snooze or dismiss with your voice), and answer questions by grabbing information from Wikipedia and other sources.
The Echo connects to the internet over WiFi and it’s designed for home use: there’s no battery, just a plug. It has an array of 7 microphones with noise cancellation so it can pick up your voice and understand queries no matter where in the room you’re standing. Amazon says it can even respond to your questions while it’s playing music.
Amazon has put together a demo video which makes Echo look both super useful, and maybe a little creepy. During a scene where one family member is cooking, we see Echo answer questions about converting teaspoons to tablespoons, add an item to a shopping list, and set an alarm — all using nothing but voice commands.
Echo is clearly a product designed to fit into Amazon’s existing ecosystem — the video shows it working with an Amazon Fire Phone and Fire tablet and you can use it to connect to music from Amazon’s cloud services.
But if you’re not creeped out about an internet-connected device that’s always listening for you to say a “wake word,” the Echo seems like it could be kind of useful. Maybe.
Or maybe you’re already using Apple’s Siri or Google Now on your phone and don’t need a dedicated device like this sitting in your living room, kitchen, or bedroom.
Does the device automatically move to each room I’m in like it appears to in the video, or is Amazon suggesting we just buy 5 of the things so we’ll have full house coverage?
It does not yet fly, but they are working on the quad copter version.
At this point that seems quite plausible. A shared battery on board for copter and Echo and a few inexpensive charging/landing pads located around the home and presto…
While I want a product like this, I want it with Google Now not Amazon. That is where I place my trust.
I signed up anyway, it wouldn’t hurt to try out new tech.
That video is so 1950s!
I think it’s brilliant as a concept. Will be interested to see how well it works. Problem is the price. Unless you live in a studio or such then you’d need more than one to cover the whole house. And sometimes replies are best served with a screen rather than voice.
Might just be me but I don’t actually carry a phone with me at all times – especially around the house. So if I want to look something up then I must go grab the tablet or hit the desktop or grab the Chromebook by the couch, etc…
If I could actually just speak anywhere in the house and get a reply to my question (with good accuracy of course) then I’d use the hell out of that. Most people would need multiple units though to cover the whole living area. I know open concept is huge but so are separate bedrooms and house hunters tells me that even open concept living isn’t everywhere yet. And that’s before we get into offices and music rooms and man caves and crafting rooms and laundry rooms etc…
In the end it needs to be cheaper by quite a bit and there really isn’t any reason it shouldn’t be. There is no battery. A few condenser mics a couple speaker parts and a wi-fi radio shouldn’t cost this much. It’s clear Amazon is looking to make profit on its hardware at this point.
I bet the NSA gives Amazon $100 for each device they sell. I really don’t want a microphone listening to my house 24/7 (I realize that they have a mute button, but I would not remember to toggle it). I do cover my webcam when I am not using it… I really would like it if cellphones had ones for the camera and microphone. I realize that the NSA records all phone conversations, but I would like to just limit to that when I am making a call (not all the time). You could not pay me to have one of these devices.
I think it’s safe to say you aren’t their target market… I will be curious to see when and how much the Echo is talking to the mothership once someone gets one and watches it with wireshark for a little while. The claim is that the recognition for the trigger word Alexa is done locally, and the machine isn’t sending anything to Amazon until triggered. That remains to be seen obviously, and it could be compromised or even just buggy, but I don’t think it’s quite the Big Brother scenario out of the gate.
Thanks for telling us you have no interest in it all.
Just make sure you don’t say anything the “government” would deem threatening or subversive in the presence of your connected devices and you should be fine….(at least until they master sarcasm recognition)
This could be used as a cool deck/patio toy if packaged in a somewhat more weatherproof battery version, though a thin extension cord might serve in most cases. Presuming you have WiFi out there too of course.
I can see potential here for small parties: add a series of trivia games in many topic areas.
And how about a “take a letter to my CongressCritter” function?
My question is whether I’ll be able to use the seemingly advanced mic and speakers over bluetooth with other devices to leverage other voice activation and automation apps like Utter, AutoVoice, Google Now, Cortana and OpenMic+. That would make it even more useful and might be a gateway device to voice controlled home automation even if Amazon fails to deliver on that front in the end.
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