Soon, you’ll be able to say “Hi Alexa” to everything. Well, almost everything, except perhaps the kitchen sink. Amazon has just unveiled a host of new products including a completely redesigned Echo family, expanding the Alexa-powered universe. What’s interesting (and wholly unexpected) are its connected microwave, wall clock and in-car kit. Alexa has also gains some new features including the ability to whisper and employ “hunches.”
Millions across the globe already have, in some form of another, a connected speaker, or a voice-assistant-powered device. Amazon’s Echo leads the smart speaker market in the US, occupying some 70 percent of market share. Google Home devices take 24 percent, while new entry – the Apple HomePod accounts for 6 percent. The number of smart speakers in the US current stand at 50 million.
Because looks matter too
The Amazon Echo family of devices are functional, practical and affordable. Admittedly, they’re not half as sexy as Google’s or Apple’s offerings. Well, Amazon has realised that design and visual appeal matter, and thus has brought out its creative brushes on its refreshed Echo line.
The first to receive an update is the Echo Show (USD230). The smart speaker with a touch-screen was released last June but featured an outdated, boxy design with thick bezels. It’s a far cry from what competing Google Assistant-powered smart displays like the Lenovo Smart Display, which sleeker and more appealing.
There’s hope yet. The new Echo Show packs a 10-inch touchscreen, double the size of the original, housed in a much sleeker, trimmer body.
Amazon’s popular and uber accessible puck – the Echo Dot, has been given a fabric makeover like the rival Google Home Mini. The USD50 device is one of the best-selling products on Amazon.com, and it’s the most affordable way into the Alexa ecosystem.
But hang on, Amazon’s got an even cheaper puck. If you have your own speakers, you can connect the new USD35 Echo Input to turn your dumb analogue speakers into an Alexa-powered one.
Riding with Alexa
With Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto bringing respective Siri- and Google Assistant-powered experiences into the auto space, Amazon is feeling a little left out. Not for long. Alexa is now heading into cars with Echo Auto, a small device that sits on top of your dashboard, connected to your phone via Bluetooth.
The device taps into Amazon’s cloud and can use location-based triggers for Alexa Routines. The device will be offered at a special invite price of USD25 (SRP: USD50) and will be shipping to invitees later this year.
From cars, Amazon also wants to invade your kitchen and living room. The company introduced the AmazonBasic Microwave (USD60) and Echo Wall Clock (USD40). The Wi-Fi connected microwave is voice-activated and internet-connected and includes Dash Replenishment Services. Which means this: It can automatically order popcorn from Amazon. Pre-orders for the microwave starts today, and it will ship later this year.
Aside this these, Amazon also announced subwoofers, amplifiers, receivers and a DVR called Fire TV Recast. Amazon now has a dozen Alexa-powered gadgets including the Echo, Echo Plus, Echo Link, Echo Link Amp, Echo Sub, Echo Dot, Echo Show, Echo Spot, Echo Dot Kids Edition, Echo Look, Fire TV Cube, Amazon Tap, Echo Connect and Echo Buttons.
And it doesn’t look like the company is going to stop.
Devices aside, Alexa gains some new abilities. The voice assistant can now whisper to you, useful for parents who worry about waking a child.
Alexa is also a lot smarter, and can employ “hunches,” based on your preferences of course. She can offer you suggestions like turning off the living room lights when you say good night in your bedroom.
You can program routines based on your location, meaning you can set up actions when you leave or arrive home.
Alexa can also help you set up smart home gadgets around your home, solely using your voice.
Amazon said it has only scratched the surface of AI-powered inventions and the company will continue to invent ways to make Alexa more useful for its customers.