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.
The 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.