Amazon has added a new member to its gadgets family, a smart speaker called Echo. Amazon Echo is a voice controlled assistant for home. It can be used to access the information such as news and weather while at home, and play music as well. It can also set alarms, timers, make shopping lists and answer questions using sources like Wikipedia. It is like Siri and Google Now with the difference being that it does the same things but as a speaker.
It provides hands-free voice control for Amazon Music, Prime Music, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn. Besides WiFi, it also has Bluetooth connectivity so that a user can stream music services like Spotify, iTunes, and Pandora from their phone or tablet. To initiate a command, the user has to say ‘Alexa’ (That is the default name Amazon has given it)
It consists of seven microphones arranged in a circular array and also has 360 degree speakers for better command reception and action transmission. Amazon will be releasing free companion app on Fire OS and Android, plus desktop and iOS browsers, to manage user alarms, music, shopping lists etc.
The device will be live for USD 199, however prime members can purchase theirs for USD 99 but, for a limited time. The sale is currently invite-only, launch date are still undisclosed by the company.
Essentially, like mentioned above, Echo is a tangible version of Siri and Google Now. Now the question arises that why would people buy this smart speaker. As a collectible?, yes; as a gadget enthusiast?, maybe; for actual daily usage? Most probably not. Everything it offers is already there on iOS and Android phones, more over it requires the user to download an additional app to get its full functionality.
Where Amazon’s Kindle reader was groundbreaking, and penetrated through a large number of book enthusiasts, Amazon Echo doesn’t seem to be that well thought through. If a person wants to play music by voice commands, he/she might as well have an ‘un-intelligent’ Bluetooth enabled speaker and just give commands to Siri or OK Google.
In its current form, there aren’t many use-cases available for Echo that a smartphone doesn’t do. One can hope for Amazon to do something innovative with this speaker to make buying it worthwhile.