Amazon doesn’t believe that Alexa’s place is in the kitchen. The always-listening voice control technology is moving more aggressively into the bedroom and maybe even into your next car. And “she” wants to connect more easily with music and smart home appliances.
During Amazon’s media event in Seattle yesterday, senior vice president of devices and services, David Limp, told reporters that 5,000 employees at his company are working on Alexa projects and that the company has identified music, communications, and controlling smart home appliances as the most popular uses of Alexa. That’s where the focus of the company’s new products is aimed.
Available colors of the new, shorter Amazon Echo
According to news out of the event, Echo Plus, priced at $149.99, resembles the original Echo but comes with an embedded smart hub that helps control household devices with less “configuration” required. Improved speakers with Dolby processing are designed to deliver more crisp vocals and extended bass.
Not that Amazon was ever shy about entering the bedroom (see also Echo Dot and Echo Show), but Echo Spot is new a $129.99 spherical device with a 2.5-inch touchscreen is Amazon’s version of an alarm clock, aimed specifically at the room that I would personally like to remain a private space in the home. In addition to displaying the time and weather, its microphones will allow people to make phone calls, turn lights on and off, and of course ask any questions one would typically ask Alexa. A tiny video camera (remember, this is in the bedroom) makes videoconferencing possible.
The bedroom-focused Echo Spot
Also introduced was a new Echo design that is shorter, with sleeves made of fabric, wood veneer, and other materials that allow tit to blend in better with a home’s décor. Of more interest to integrators, its speakers have been improved with Dolby technology, as well, and for a price point ($99.99) that is much less than the original Echo’s $179.99.
A new version of the Fire TV streaming video dongle will enable users to pair it with any Echo device to enjoy hands-free, far-field voice control of services from Bravo, Netflix, and Showtime. More importantly, it features 4K Ultra HD and High Dynamic Range (HDR) video and Dolby Atmos audio, for $69.99.
Last, but not least, Amazon said that a deal is in place with the BMW Group to embed Alexa in its BMW and Mini Cooper vehicles starting next year.