Amazon Announced The Amazon Echo: A Voice Controlled Speaker

Amazon Echo

Courtesy of Amazon.com


Amazon made an unexpected announcement today: the Amazon Echo. The Amazon Echo is a voice controlled speaker, or as termed by The Verge, “a servant.” The device, which is set to ship in the “coming weeks”, will be regularly priced at $199; but an exclusive $99 dollar offer will be made available to a select number of Amazon Prime members by invitation only. Individuals selected will receive an invitation via email. Currently, that invitation is the only way to order the device.

Amazon EchoThe most exciting aspect of the speaker is its ability to be a virtual assistant. Her name is “Alexa.” Alexa can do a number of things such as schedule calendar appointments, add items to your shopping list, and check the weather. Additionally, she can act as an “information fountain” allowing you to ask a number of questions such as, “how many teaspoons are there in a tablespoon” or “What day is Thanksgiving this year?” She will even keep you up to date on the latest news and sports scores.

While I’m sure you’re thinking, “Siri/Google Voice/tons of other vocal recognition technology services out there already do the same thing.” The key here is convenience. According to Amazon’s product page, “Tucked under Echo’s light ring is an array of seven microphones” that enable “far-field voice recognition.” What does this mean? Hopefully it means you can be cooking on the other side of the room and ask for conversions or recipes and have them recited back to you with ease. This would prevent trips to the Genius bar due to flour getting stuck in your home button.

The Echo will also be always connected to the cloud and have a number of dedicated apps meaning you can stream music and media without the need of a smart device or PC. Apps to be supported at launch include: Amazon Music Library, Prime Music, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio. That list is likely to grow with time. The speaker will also support bluetooth 2.0 enabling you to stream high quality audio from all of your Bluetooth enabled devices enabling the likes of Pandora, Spotify, and more.

Additionally, the speaker is advertised to deliver high quality audio from its revolutionary reflex port. According to Amazon, this port “enhances the woofer’s output for deeper sounds without distortion.” The hardware includes a 2.5 inch sub-woofer and a 2.0 inch tweeter. While certainly not the biggest speaker on the market, speakers such as the Beats by Dre Pill have demonstrated how advancements in technology have increased the sound quality and amplitude of sound from smaller speakers.

What are your thoughts on the device? Do you think the vocal recognition function as a gimmick or do you think it will be useful? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Ryan Egan

About the author

Ryan is a natural born technology enthusiast. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology and has been writing on the topic of technology for over 4 years. He also enjoys sitting in hot-tubs while watching movies on a gorgeous 80 inch flat-screen televisions.

14 comments on “Amazon Announced The Amazon Echo: A Voice Controlled Speaker”

  1. Heather Reply

    Hmm. Hard to know whether I would need it when I keep my phone with me all the time and can get everything I need there. It does seem like it has some pros though. I assume it’s not portable? I wonder how it knows you’re talking to it if you can talk from across the room. Say Alexa?

    Anyway, might be worthwhile. I’m a fan of anything that allows me to lift one less finger. 🙂

    • Ryan Egan Ryan Egan Reply

      Yeah, the device uses the word Alexa as the trigger. You just better not have any kids named Alexa. That’d get really annoying. I guess that is one thing that Siri and Cortana both have going for them, nobody is going to name their kids after artificial intelligence.

  2. Abe Kashiwagi Reply

    Impressive. I’m tempted. I’m still skeptical about the range of this speaker, but love what Amazon is doing with this!

  3. Ryan Flake Reply

    I have a Bluetooth speaker with a quad mic array that does a pretty good job (Creative Soundblaster Axx 200). Across the room without somewhat shouting? Hardly. I hope it has at least Bluetooth 3.0 and supports HD audio codecs.

  4. Anonymous Reply

    Now this is my hopeful view of the future! A HANDS off and head up technology device, because it sounds like it can do 75% of what I do on technology. I feel like most voice recognition devices have a lot of kinks to work out but I’m sure it will get better in the future.

    • Jan Corn Reply

      i love it. Yes, it has some bumps but I hope users don’t expect it to have a perfect data base of information and always perfect word recognition in a first generation Echo. For most of my daily uses it is amazing.

      Examples,of what I did today: asked what the weather would be today,and tomorrow,and the rest of the week in a city where I’ll be traveling, got the reply in seconds, asked how to spell a word, asked it to play a favorite radio program, asked it to pause when I answered the phone, resumed listening to the radio show right where I’d left off, asked the calorie content of food I was preparing for lunch, requested a specific album to listen to while eating lunch, had it help me calculate how much I’d need to save for retirement and what my yearly draw rate could be so I wouldn’t outlive my savings. Math is a strength of the Echo.

      I later asked for info on various writers and if the Echo didn’t have the info in its data base, all I had to request was the Wikipedia entry. That entry is read in condensed form but is adequate. Ask for something like Bob Hope or Shakespeare quotes and you’ll get so many it is astounding. I asked if it would rain tomorrow in my city -or the day after. I then requested the upcoming date when a favorite football team would,play and got the day, time, location, and name of,the opposing team.

      The hands free convenience is huge. I can control it with voice commands while fixing dinner or engaged in other activities. I can pause it while listening to music to talk to a neighbor or watch tv or go jogging. It works around my schedule. And I am told that texting and phone capabilities may be just around the corner.

      Will this be the ultimate winner in the race to a superb hands free device? Maybe not. But it is still the best option in its price range.

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