Smart home technology is just getting started, but a new product from Amazon could help bring it into the mainstream.
Called the Amazon Echo, this cylindrical speaker uses far-field voice recognition to receive and respond to your commands. For now, it appears to function primarily as a personal assistant — akin to Siri or Google Now — but assuming that happens, the future could be much longer.
What is Amazon Echo?
As you can see from the video, the Amazon Echo may have a standard speaker function, but there’s a lot more built into this little device.
At first glance, the Echo looks like a regular Bluetooth speaker — and it does the job just fine. You can play any song or playlist at the volume you want to make it perfect for the occasion.
The device’s 360-degree speaker can play music from your phone or tablet via Bluetooth, and it also has built-in support for Amazon Music, Prime Music, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn.
But Echo is much more than a speaker.
Under the hood is a set of seven always-on microphones that can pick up your voice from any direction. When it detects the word «wake» — by default Alexa it lights up and sends your command to the cloud, where the Echo quickly processes and responds to your request.
Echo is always listening, but it has a built-in mute button in case you don’t like it.
When it comes to commands, it’s similar to current smartphone-based assistants like Siri. You can ask about the weather, request a specific type of music or playlist, add an event to your calendar, and so on.
Since his brain lives in the cloud and runs on Amazon Web Services, he is constantly learning and expanding functionality over time. And more importantly, the Amazon Echo is a standalone personal assistant. It’s not bound by the baggage or technical limitations of a smartphone, which will likely make it more intuitive than its phone rivals.