Amazon Echo, the personal assistant service launched recently by Amazon comprises of a speaker and seven inbuilt microphones that has caught the fancy of consumers interested in smart home entertainment. However, a section of privacy advocates fears the privacy of users as the black, 24-inch high cylindrical speaker as it is always on.
“Alexa” has been chosen as the keyword for waking up the personal assistant for queries on weather, information, setting alarms or adding any items to the shopping list. The assistant remembers the credit card details of the user for instant purchase of items from Amazon. The 360-degree speaker has the ability to stream music via Bluetooth and wifi. Impressive sound quality is also expected as it includes two 2-inch tweeters and an inbuilt woofer. The device utilizes noise cancellation technology, which allows the microphone to pick up commands even while music is playing. Cloud based music streaming from iHeartRadio or Tunein Radio is also supported.
The device is similar to Google Now and Apple Siri with the only difference that Echo will function as a full-time personal assistant. This feature has become a concern among privacy advocates as bugs could be installed to listen to users. However, Amazon claims that the device will start recording commands only when the term “Alexa” is used. Google’s personal assistant in Android is activated by “Ok Google Now” command and Apple Siri is activated by “Hey Siri” command. Microsoft’s Kinect sensor for Xbox features a full-HD camera that can detect movement, even in the dark, even while the user is silently standing in front of the sensor.
The Echo will be offered at $199 for normal customers and for $99 for Amazon Prime subscribers. Users will require an invitation to purchase the device while the company stated that invitations will be released in the coming months. A remote will also be bundled with the device for volume control and other basic commands. The tower-structured speaker is likely to attract smartphone enthusiasts. The Echo app is being offered for Fire OS, Android, desktop versions and will be released for iOS in the coming days.
It is still unclear if consumers will find a liking towards a tower speaker for adding items to shopping list or for streaming music which are fulfilled by the existing smartphones. The assistant was also launched with the aim of promoting shopping on the company’s online store. Users will prefer a Bluetooth speaker for music streaming instead of a speaker with a personal assistant. The potential of the device aimed at smart home consumers will be known only after its release.
Echo features noise cancellation feature and comes with seven microphones that picks up voice from any direction. The speaker has a good output as there is a 2-inch tweeter and a 2.5-inch woofer. Pearsall mentioned that “Alexa” was inspired by the ancient library of Alexandria. In 1999, Amazon has acquired Alexa, an internet database company that tracks internet traffic.
In 2013, Amazon had acquired Ivona, a speech synthesis software company that helped in the development of Echo which has been under development for the last four years. The service was codenamed Doppler and Project D during the development.
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