The new Amazon Echo Show is basically an Echo with a display… and a camera. The display lets you do things like watch videos or see news, stock price, traffic, or weather updates, among other things.

But it’s the camera which really makes the $230 Echo Show different from most of Amazon’s previous devices. Because now in addition to an always-listening microphone that waits for you to say “Alexa” before responding, there’s a camera that’s always watching… sort of.

The camera detects movement and turns on the display when you walk into a room. To be fair, Amazon says the camera won’t capture pictures or videos unless you explicitly tell it to… but then there’s the optional “Drop in” feature.

Here’s how Drop in works: you can choose to give friends or family members to Drop in and start a voice-and-video call almost instantly. When someone wants to drop in, you’ll hear an audio tone and see a visual indicator that someone is trying to drop in.

What they’ll see is a “frosted glass view” from your camera… for 10 seconds. After that, the frosted effect fades away and they’ll see whatever is in front of your camera.

In other words, you’ll have 10 seconds to end the call or turn off the camera before the participant can see… well… whatever’s going on in front of the Echo Show.

I’m having a hard time imagining why you’d ever use this feature at all.

Fortunately, Drop in is entirely optional, and it’s not the only way to use an Amazon Echo Show to make calls. There’s also a calling and messaging feature that lets you send voice or text messages to other users in non-real time, or place a call to another user… which they have to accept before the call goes through.

There’s also a do not disturb mode. And there’s an option to turn off the mic and camera on you device altogether by pressing a button on top of the Echo Show. A red LED light will indicate that the mic and camera are turned off.

It’d be nice if there was an option to disable just the camera, while leaving the mic on though… because disabling them both means that the Alexa wake word detection won’t work.

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11 replies on “Amazon Echo Show’s coolest features are also its creepiest”

  1. This is a device that Amazon decides how you can and cannot use. That, more than anything, defines it.

  2. Some other comments indicate they feel their elderly parents would be happy to make good use of the drop-in feature. I can’t picture my parents being a fan, though I do hope they love me and like talking to me.
    All in all the drop-in feature seems more like Russian Roulette to me. I don’t even like people stopping by without calling first.
    Beyond that the small and fixed position screen is kind of limiting to me.
    All in all I’m happy to see Amazon pushing on this wall though. Hopefully it will drive Google to take more advantage of its Chromecast ecosystem to flush out Google Home. I should be able to set default screens to use with my devices at a minimum. Beyond that though Google really needs to step back and abstract Assistant more from the particular hardware it is on and develop a UI that works with the variable input and output methods that might be available to a user. It should know from my device and preferences if I have a screen, keyboard, mic or camera and be able to provide responses accordingly to take advantage of my situation.

  3. I’m just as much of a privacy advocate as the next guy… but I find this feature, as an opt-in, to be incredibly useful. This is EXACTLY what I’ve had to rig up using multiple other things for my elderly mother. In her case, she is very happy to have any of us kids “drop in” on her, even if it is with just a skype call… this streamlines that, and eliminates the reliance on other technology that she may have more difficulty using.

    So I can understand why some people wouldn’t care for or use this feature, but for me, this particular feature makes the product an almost no-brainer, and I’ll be getting it ASAP!

    1. One question I haven’t found the answer to yet… as an early adopter of the Echo itself, it has the feature to be ‘paired’ with a Kindle Fire to act as a display. I wonder if they’ve implemented in the software the ability to use a ‘paired’ setup like this to allow the same software functionality as the Echo Show allows.

      1. In fact, the drop in feature is exactly why I want this. Would do wonders for meeting in touch with my elderly Dad.

  4. In other words, you’ll have 10 seconds to end the call or turn off the camera before the participant can see… well… whatever’s going on in front of the Echo Show.
    I can think of times where it would take more than 10 seconds to get to the Echo to turn off the camera.
    Adds new meaning to the name “Echo Show”.

  5. You can always put black tape on the camera lens,
    just like people do with camera-equipped PCs.

  6. Suppose you don’t want to use the camera. Then an alternative to the Echo Show would be a much-more-useful tv plus a Fire TV device that supports Alexa. Or the Westinghouse TV with fire tv built-in that you wrote about in March. In both tv cases you get a good sized screen plus Alexa voice control. A TV screen has many more uses than just Alexa, and can be visible from many more places in a room than can a 7″ screen. The only substantial advantage of the Echo Show device over Echo TV is you don’t have to push a button on the little remote to activate it. Given the functionality gains of the TV over the Show, the tv option seems a better choice for many.

  7. These are all features designed to appeal to older people and less tech savy, stop thinking about products from your own perspective and look at how other demographics would approach them.

    1. That’s kind of the point I was trying to make: these features *are* cool… but also have serious privacy and security implications.

    2. If you think a camera in their house that people can use to ‘drop in’ is something old people would dig then you haven’t met my parents.

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