Amazon Introduces Echo, A $200 Device That Serves As An Assistant And...Companion?

Chris CrumTechnology

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Amazon just unveiled a new device called Echo, a plug-in, voice-controlled hardware device that talks to you, and gives information, music, news, weather, etc. Apparently it even tells jokes. Soon, you'll never need people again.

The video below, which shows the device in action, probably sums up what we're dealing with here better than I can.

It gives you weather and news from various sources, including local radio stations, NPR, and ESPN from TuneIn. You can listen to your Amazon Music Library, Prime Music, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio with it. It includes voice-controlled alarms, timers, shopping, and to-do lists, and gives you info from Wikipedia, definitions, answers to common questions, and other things.

Amazon will be adding more features, and Echo will be updated automatically via the cloud.

To use it, you just connect it to your home network, and use the set-up provided by the companion app on Fire OS, Android, iOS or desktop browsers. It's always on and connected to WI-Fi, and is Bluetooth-enabled. That means you can use it to stream music services like Spotify, iTunes, or Pandora from your phone or tablet.

Here's a look at the hardware:

The company explains, "Amazon Echo is designed around your voice. It's always on—just ask for information, music, news, weather, and more. Echo begins working as soon as it hears you say the wake word, 'Alexa.' It's also an expertly-tuned speaker that can fill any room with immersive sound."

Examples of commands you can use include:

- Will it rain tomorrow?
- Set an alarm for eight a.m.
- Play music by Bruno Mars
- How many teaspoons are in a tablespoon?
- Wikipedia: Abraham Lincoln
- Add gelato to my shopping list
- Play my "dinner party" playlist
- When is Thanksgiving?
- What's the weather in Los Angeles this weekend?
- Add "make hotel reservations" to my to-do list

You get the idea.

"Tucked under Echo's light ring is an array of seven microphones. These sensors use beam-forming technology to hear you from any direction," Amazon says. "With enhanced noise cancellation, Echo can hear you ask a question even while it's playing music."

Not only does Echo update via the cloud, it continuously learns and adapts to your speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences.

Echo costs $199 for regular customers and $99 for Prime members. For now, it's only available by invitation, which would seem to suggest Amazon isn't looking to bulk up its holiday sales with it.

Image via Amazon

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.