Last week, Amazon made several exciting announcements about the latest updates and expansion plans for its AI personal assistant Amazon Alexa. It involves plenty of new hardware and updates to the existing devices in the Amazon Echo range. Some of them will be available in time for Christmas.
New Amazon Echo Devices
The current Amazon Echo has undergone refurbishment and is available in a few new colours. The Echo Dot now has an optional upgrade to include a digital clock feature. If you’d prefer your device to have a larger screen, but not too big, the Amazon Echo 8 is an 8-inch device with an HD display and a built-in camera shutter. Or if you want to put a smart device in your child’s room that also doubles as a colour-changing nightlight, there is the Echo Glow. Amazon smart speakers are now safe for the bathroom with the new Echo Flex, with motion sensor or night light upgrades available. For better quality home speakers, Amazon Echo Studio is here. It can support Dolby Atmos and 3D audio. Last but not least, Amazon Echo Buds will allow you to utilize hands-free access to Alexa on the go through wireless earbuds.
Amazon Echo Frames
They don’t quite have the futuristic features of the Google Glass, but Echo Frames are an interesting venture into wearables for Amazon. It connects to phones via Bluetooth (currently Android-only) and relies on internet access to answer questions. You must say the Alexa wake word or press the temple of the glasses before asking a question or making a command. You can also use them to listen to audio such as a podcast or playlist. They don’t project any holograms in front of your eyes, they simply work using microphones and speakers. You can filter notifications if you don’t want to keep hearing them. The Echo Frames take 75 minutes to charge fully using the Amazon charger. Right now they are in an invite-only beta stage, available in just 1 size and colour. This is black with tortoiseshell tips and 54 x 18 x 145 mm. You can get Echo Frames fitted with prescription lenses if you wear glasses.
Amazon Echo Loop
The second major development in Amazon wearable technology is the Echo Loop, which is a ring to be worn on a finger. This smart ring also connects through Bluetooth. It has 2 microphones and a button to activate the smart assistant. You must bring it close to your mouth to speak into it, and close to your ear to listen to replies. This is not the most convenient way to make or take phone calls, but the Loop allows you to do that, including 1 speed dial number. The ring uses your existing mobile phone network and data plan. It will also buzz when you receive notifications. There is no visual display, so you will still have to check them on your paired phone. The Echo Loop takes 90 minutes to fully charge and comes in a waterproof black titanium finish. This device is also currently invite-only and available in S, M, L, and XL. If you don’t know which size to buy, Amazon will send you a sizing kit first.
New Things That Amazon Alexa Can Do
Alexa’s capabilities are also upgrading, so existing users can benefit from new functions without having to purchase new devices. Alexa will be able to do a lot of new things with the following features launching later this year:
- Celebrity voices (initially Samuel L. Jackson, more to follow)
- Alexa Guard routines to arm your system and listen for human activity
- Photo-sharing between Echo devices and Alexa app
- Answering the doorbell through Ring
- Access to podcasts through Spotify
- Neural Text-to-Speech to help Alexa to be more expressive
- Replenishment services to alert you about smart device supplies
- Scan-to-Cook Echo Show upgrade to pair with Amazon Smart Oven
- Echo Show Food Network cooking classes
Amazon is also launching a new wireless protocol called Sidewalk. It uses the 900MHz spectrum, so it can reach where Bluetooth or Wifi can’t. This could allow you to connect Alexa to outdoor lights or a mailbox. A partner device for Sidewalk is the Ring Fetch, which is a smart tag to attach to your pet’s collar. You establish a “geofence” with Sidewalk, such as the boundary of your property, and Alexa will notify you if your pet crosses this boundary.
Other New Amazon Hardware
The portable Echo devices and Alexa updates are not the only additions to the Amazon smart home range. There is now an Amazon smart oven, which is a convection oven, microwave, and air fryer combination. You can pair it with your Echo and use Alexa to preheat the oven and start or stop cooking. There is also a new generation of Eero Wi-fi Router, which pairs with Alexa to control the Wifi via voice commands. The Ring Stick Up Cam Elite is also here, improving on the regular version. The new smart security camera is powered via Ethernet rather than Wi-fi like the previous cheaper version.