Amazon Echo crams a voice assistant into a $199 Bluetooth speaker

After the Fire Phone became this year’s biggest hardware gaffe, Amazon felt it necessary to follow it up with the Echo — a speaker with a tiny voice assistant trapped inside.

No one saw this one coming.

The Amazon Echo is basically a Google Now or Siri clone encased in the mould of a Bluetooth speaker. You ask it a question, it spits out an answer (except it’s slightly cooler than that).

For some reason, “Alexa” is the keyword that allows users to request music from Spotify, iTunes and Pandora, weather information, news, and other commands like adding events to a calendar or setting an alarm.

It’s a rather novel concept, considering that voice assistants are usually cocooned within the confines of a mobile phone. The Echo measures around 9″ tall, so its designed to stand tall on your dining room table or chest of drawers. It brings the freedom of the voice assistant to the all-encompassing family environment. Anyone can request anything from it, thus it makes for a more cohesive experience.

It already sounds more interesting than that stupid Fire Phone.

While the concept might be slightly foreign, it has all the common world bells and whistles, including a little tweeter with a tiny subwoofer using Bluetooth 4.0 LE (we presume). WiFi connectivity keeps the speaker connected to the outside world while the device itself is controlled and set-up via an Android, desktop, iOS or Fire OS app.

The project, for now, is invite only and more features are expected in time, but the device is available for those lucky few for US$199. Amazon Prime members can shave US$100 off that price.

Not completely sure what this all means? Enjoy one of those awful cliched “happy family” videos below for a full explanation.

Andy Walker
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