Amazon Echo


'Amazon Echo' Articles Page 2

Apple's Echo-Like Smart Speaker With Siri and AirPlay Could Debut as Early as WWDC

Apple is widely rumored to be working on a Siri-based smart home device with a speaker, and Australian leaker Sonny Dickson has shared new details about its possible design and features on Twitter and with MacRumors. Apple's smart speaker could take design cues from the Google Home Dickson said that Apple is currently "finalizing designs" for the Amazon Echo and Google Home competitor, which he expects to be marketed as a Siri and AirPlay device. "It is believed to carry some form of Beats technology," he added, while noting that the device will run a variant of iOS software. It is believed to carry some form of Beats technology, and is expected to run an variant iOS— Sonny Dickson (@SonnyDickson) April 27, 2017 Dickson later told MacRumors that the device, allegedly codenamed B238 internally, will feature a Mac Pro-like concave top with built-in controls. His source, which he told us is "someone inside Apple," described the device as "fat" like the Google Home with speaker mesh covering the majority of the device. Dickson was told Apple's smart speaker could be unveiled at WWDC 2017 in early June, but as always, the company's plans could change. In September 2016, Bloomberg reported that Apple's smart home device had entered prototype testing, including both a larger and a smaller model in line with Amazon's current Echo lineup. However, at the time, the report cautioned that Apple's early efforts do not guarantee that a finalized product will be released. The report said Apple's smart home device would be able to control appliances, locks, lights, and

Amazon's New 'Echo Look' Camera Has Machine Learning to Help You Make Better Fashion Choices

Amazon today announced the expansion of its popular Echo line with the $200 Amazon Echo Look, a device that packs in all of the typical Echo functionalities and adds on a hands-free camera with built-in LED lighting that can give users an edge on their wardrobe choices. With Echo Look, users can take full-body photos and videos using their voice, and view the content on the connected Amazon iOS and Android apps. Thanks to the Echo Look's depth-sensing camera, users' outfits pop in the foreground while the background is blurred, making it easier to see what they're wearing. Photos can be saved to an ongoing "look book" that will log what users wear every day so as to not duplicate outfits, and the pics can be shared easily on social networks or through texts. Taking a video allows users to quickly replay the clip on their phone so they can see their outfit from every angle in the moment, making it easier to decide on what to wear. With Echo Look, you can take full-length photos of your daily look using just your voice. The built-in LED lighting and depth-sensing camera let you blur the background to make your outfits pop, giving you clean, shareable photos. Get a live view in the Echo Look app or ask Alexa to take a short video so you can see yourself from every angle. View recommendations based on your daily look and use Style Check for a second opinion on what looks best. And, because Alexa is built in the cloud, she’s always getting smarter—and so will Echo Look. Echo Look also comes equipped with a machine learning feature called Style Check, allowing users

Amazon Offers Echo's Far-Field Voice Recognition Tech to Third Parties

Amazon has fired another salvo in the virtual assistant wars by opening up access to the far-field voice recognition technology found in its Echo smart speakers so that third-party manufacturers can make their own versions (via BBC). The move comes as Amazon attempts to spread the use of its Alexa virtual assistant across a wide range of connected products and take ownership of a larger portion of the growing smart devices market. Google announced its branded Home smart speaker in November, while Apple is also rumored to be planning a similar Siri-enabled device this year. The initially invite-only access to the technology via the Alexa Voice Service program will give manufacturers the right to replicate the Echo's seven-microphone array that allows the speakers to hear a voice command from across the room. The access also means third-party developers can use the proprietary algorithms used for wake-word recognition, which focus the array on the owner's voice and filter out echoes and other noises. Developers will be provided with a reference kit as a starting point for their own designs, and the freedom to source components from a range of parts manufacturers. "Our vision is for Alexa to be everywhere, and that means making it available to other companies and services to integrate into a wide range of devices," said an Amazon spokesperson. "We expect Alexa to be in many devices over time, including products that compete with Echo, which is why we're investing in making a wide range of hands-free and far-field reference solutions available to OEMs [original

Burger King TV Ad Highlights Voice Recognition Challenge For Smart Speakers

Burger King made headlines yesterday when it began running a 15-second television ad made to intentionally activate Google Home speakers and Android phones within earshot. The simple commercial involves someone posing as a Burger King employee who leans into the camera to ask the question "OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?" – a request designed to prompt Google virtual assistants nearby to start reading the burger's Wikipedia entry. To the relief of many, Google quickly moved to prevent its Home speakers from responding to the ad by registering the sound clip and disabling the trigger. Voices on TV have been inadvertently triggering smart speakers for months now, but the ad represents the first attempt by a company to purposely hijack users' devices for commercial gain. One likely reason Burger King chose to target Google Home rather than iPhones is that unlike Apple's Siri, the virtual assistant cannot be trained to recognize a particular user's voice, which highlights one of the main issues with connected smart speakers currently on the market. As it stands, Google Home can only be used with a single Google account at a time, and lacks the ability to differentiate users by their voice patterns. Google has said its ultimate goal for Home is to be able to identify different people in the same room – and hints of multi-user functionality have briefly appeared in the Google Home app – suggesting some sort of voice identification feature is likely coming. Likewise, Amazon is known to be working on a similar system that would allow its Echo range of

Siri and Alexa Battling to Become Go-To Voice Assistants in Hotel Rooms

Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa are being put through their paces in a "tech incubator" hotel chain, in order to determine which voice assistant brings more to the table for guests wanting to order room service, control lights, change TV channels, adjust the temperature, and more (via Bloomberg). The main incubator for the test is happening in Aloft Hotels, which are owned by Marriott. The Aloft Hotel in Boston is using Amazon Echo devices and a collection of iPhones and iPads to gather information on which voice assistant will ultimately best serve guests in the long run. Marriott hasn't divulged information on who might be the winner as of yet, but the company did say that it expects to decide if it will expand the test to more chains besides Aloft Hotels "as early as mid-year." Marriott expects to decide whether to adopt the technology for one or more of its chains as early as mid-year, potentially boosting sales for the device of choice. More important, it will increase the winning company’s exposure in the market for voice-activated devices, which are gaining more mainstream traction. “Those two players are in the game right now,” said Toni Stoeckl, who oversees the Aloft, Element, AC and Moxy chains as global brand leader for lifestyle brands at Marriott. There are almost 130 Aloft hotels in the U.S., and more than 100 additional ones planned. Carolina Milanesi, a market analyst with Creative Strategies, compared the introduction of voice assistants into hotel rooms to when the hospitality industry began putting iPhone docking stations into rooms so guests

Amazon Developing 'Voice ID' Technology for Alexa Assistant

Amazon is building upon the Alexa voice-recognition technology found in its Echo range of speakers so that the virtual assistant can distinguish between individual users based on the sound of their voices. According to anonymous sources who spoke to TIME, Amazon's feature would work by matching the person speaking to a pre-recorded voice sample, or "voice print", to verify the speaker's identity. A primary account holder would be able to require a specific voice print to access certain commands. A user would, for example, be able to set it so that a parent's voice would be required to make a credit card purchase or turn on the coffee machine through the Echo.Amazon has been developing the feature, internally called Voice ID, since at least the summer of 2015, according to people familiar with the company's Alexa strategy. The underlying technology is said to have been completed and just needs integrating into Echo speakers, however it's still unclear when that will happen. The Voice ID technology would be a first in the smart speaker space and make Echo units easier to share between multiple people under one roof. Currently, Echo users can set up multiple profiles and jump between them, but the user must say "switch accounts" or use the Alexa app to do so. And as for credit card purchases, a four-digit authentication code must be said out loud to confirm them. It's unknown at this point whether Voice ID will extend to the many Alexa-enabled third-party devices now available, or if it would be limited to Amazon's Echo speakers. An Amazon spokesperson declined

Amazon and Google Want to Turn Their Smart Home Speakers Into Telephone Replacements

Both Amazon and Google are working on turning their popular AI-based speaker products into replacements for a home telephone, reports The Wall Street Journal. The Amazon Echo and/or the Google Home could be used to make and receive phone calls, with the two companies planning to add the updated functionality as soon as this year. Smart home products like the Amazon Echo have become a staple in the lives of many people and the ability to make phone calls directly from the device would be a valuable addition. Google and Amazon are said to be working to overcome concerns about privacy, telecom regulations, and emergency services, plus the "inherent awkwardness" of making phone conversations via a speaker. The two companies are worried consumers won't want to speak on a device that is able to record conversations. Both the Echo and the Home continuously record audio to enable AI responses. One source that spoke to The Wall Street Journal said that Amazon would only collect metadata from phone calls rather than conversations themselves, and while it's unclear what Google would retain, a Home-based call service would likely resemble Google Voice, which does not record phone calls.Amazon is considering multiple options for how the phone feature could work, the people said. The Echo could get its own phone number. Call forwarding could enable calls to that number to be answered remotely on a cellphone, and vice versa. Another option is to sync a user's existing phone number and contacts with the Echo. Incoming calls would ring on the user's cellphone. Amazon and

Amazon's Alexa Gets Expanded Calendar Support and Tap Speaker Hands-Free Mode

Amazon has silently updated its Alexa assistant to include Outlook.com calendar support, reports The Verge. Amazon's Echo family of connected smart speakers have always supported Google calendars, but now Outlook users can ask Alexa to add or review upcoming events in their schedule using voice commands like "What's on my calendar?" or "Add an event to my calendar." Outlook.com calendars can be added via the iOS Alexa app under Settings -> Calendar, which will activate the support on any connected Alexa-powered devices. Alexa still doesn't officially offer support for Apple Calendar, but a basic skill has recently been developed and made available on Github that allows the assistant to read upcoming events from the native Apple app. In related news, Amazon has added hands-free Alexa support to its Tap portable speakers via an over-the-air software update. Originally, Amazon Tap users wishing to activate Alexa had to press a physical button on the Bluetooth speakers, but the latest update means Alexa can now be invoked via voice alone. Amazon says that even with the hands-free function, Tap speakers should retain about eight hours of battery life, while the "listening" mode of the devices can be put to sleep with a press of the power button. Tap speakers now also support Amazon's "echo spatial perception", which enables the closest Alexa device to respond to commands when two or more are in

Apple and Amazon Adopt Opposing Strategies as Smart Home War Heats Up

Apple has been in the smart home market for over two years, having introduced its HomeKit framework in the fall of 2014 alongside iOS 8, but HomeKit has been slow to get off the ground because of the company's strict requirements. Amazon, meanwhile, entered the smart home market somewhat later with its Alexa-enabled Echo in-home speaker officially launching in the summer of 2015, but Amazon's Echo already supports a wider range of products. The difference between the two? Open and closed development, as explored by Reuters in a new article that details the different approaches that Amazon and Apple have taken when developing their smart home offerings. Apple maintains strict control over its HomeKit platform, with a heavy focus on security and simplicity. Manufacturers who want to create a HomeKit product are required to use special HomeKit chips priced up to $2, along with specific WiFi and Bluetooth chips. Bluetooth-enabled HomeKit products from Elgato HomeKit devices have to be made in factories certified by Apple, and then have to be sent to Cupertino for rigorous testing, a process that can take three to five months and must be conducted in secret. Amazon's process for smart home products that work with Alexa is much simpler, taking a matter of days to complete. Smart home companies simply need to write code and send it for Amazon to review -- that's it. No special chips, no secure factories, and no specific oversight. Companies can send a product to a third-party lab for testing to earn a specific "Works with Alexa" label, a process that is completed

CES 2017: Ford to Integrate Alexa Virtual Assistant into its Cars From Next Month

Ford has announced it is teaming up with Amazon to integrate Alexa virtual assistant into its cars, allowing vehicle owners to access shop, search, and control smart home features on the road. The partnership means owners of Ford cars equipped with the SYNC 3 AppLink system will be able to access Amazon's Alexa voice-activated virtual assistant from the driver's seat, enabling them to check the weather, add items to shopping lists, play audiobooks, and control Alexa-compatible smart home devices, like lights and thermostats. "Ford and Amazon are aligned around a vision that your voice should be the primary way to interface with your favorite devices and services," said Don Butler, executive director, Ford Connected Vehicle and Services. "Customers will be able to start their vehicles from home, and manage smart home features while on the road – making life easier."Ford said that beginning next month, some owners of its vehicles will be able to use Alexa voice commands to access certain car functions and even check the range of their car. Specifically, owners of the Ford Focus Electric, Fusion Energy, and the C-MAX Energy will be able to use their Amazon Echo or Echo Dot smart speaker in the home to lock their car or start the engine remotely. Ford said it plans to offer the Alexa commands in more of its SYNC Connect cars at a later date. The second phase of the rollout, expected this summer, allows Ford owners to tap into a broad set of Alexa skills using their voice while driving – helping them keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. "We're excited

CES 2017: Lenovo Announces Amazon Alexa-Powered Connected Smart Speaker

PC maker Lenovo today announced its first smart speaker with Amazon's voice-activated virtual assistant built in. Called the Lenovo Smart Assistant, the connected speaker integrates Amazon's Alexa Voice Services and offers the same speech-activated features as the Echo family of devices, but housed in a slightly redesigned unit. The speaker keeps the same cylindrical profile as Amazon's Echo, but with the microphone portion of the device in a slightly raised position, which Lenovo says offers better ventilation to cool the internal components. Lenovo's unit also has eight far-field microphones versus Echo's seven, with noise suppression and acoustic echo cancellation included for picking up voice commands from up to 16 feet away. The Lenovo Smart Assistant comes in a range of color schemes including green, gray, and orange fabric. The speakers will ship in May for a price of $130 (less than Amazon's Echo at $180). Lenovo is also offering a Harman Kardon edition of the Smart Assistant featuring better sound quality for $180. Amazon's Alexa Voice Services API is expected to crop up in a number of new third-party products at this year's CES. Microsoft has previously teased third-party devices using its own Cortana virtual assistant

Microsoft Opens Cortana Virtual Assistant to Third-Party Hardware Makers

Microsoft has announced it is making its Cortana voice assistant AI available to third-party device makers, with third-party developers also set to get access to the platform for integrating into their services on Cortana-powered devices. The company's approach is based on two software kits currently available for preview: A Skills Kit that allows developers to build apps that can be called up and controlled via Cortana using voice commands, and a Cortana Devices SDK, which enables third-party hardware manufacturers to bake in the voice-activated AI to new devices. Premium audio company Harman Kardon is set to become one of the first device makers to make use of the SDK in a new wireless speaker, set to debut early next year. In a short video released by Microsoft, the speaker looks vaguely similar to an Amazon Echo, but appears to feature a display at the top that lights up when Cortana is summoned. Given its long history of working with OEMs, Microsoft's decision to license out its Cortana AI to third party device makers could prove an adroit move in a smart speaker space currently dominated by Google and Amazon, both of which have released own-branded devices. Just last week, Microsoft unveiled plans to compete with smart devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo by developing a HomeHub feature for Windows 10 PCs that enables Cortana to be summoned from the lock screen and provide useful information on request. The Redmond-based company is also planning to enable Cortana integration with fridges, toasters, thermostats, and other Internet of Things (IoT)

Amazon Discounts its Echo Smart Speaker Range Yet Again

As part of its Black Friday Deals Week, Amazon lowered the price of its Echo family of smart speakers, before returning them to their regular prices. Now Amazon has discounted the devices again for a limited time in the U.S. as part of a "Holiday Deals" promotion. The full-size Echo speaker is $40 cheaper at $139.99, while the smaller Echo dot is available for $39.99 instead of its regular price of $49.99. Amazon Tap, the company's portable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled speaker, has also seen its price reduced from $129.99 to $89.99. The Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Amazon Tap all have voice-activated assistant Alexa built in. MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon and may sometimes get paid if you click one of the above links.

Amazon Developing Echo Speaker With 7-Inch Touchscreen to 'Fend Off Competition' From Apple and Google

Amazon's next iteration of the Echo speaker will be a "premium" model that includes a touchscreen measuring around seven inches, marking "a major departure" from the tall, cylindrical design of the Echo currently on sale. The company is said to be upgrading Echo for two reasons: to capitalize on the device's success, and as early preparation to "fend off competition" from Google Home and Apple's rumored entry into the smart home speaker market (via Bloomberg). The logic behind adding a touchscreen to Echo is reasoned as a way "to make it easier to access content," like the weather and upcoming calendar events. Currently, Echo is a voice-activated device with limited volume and mute buttons on its topside. While the exact design of the speaker wasn't pinned down, people familiar with the plans said it will be larger and "tilt upwards" so users can read the screen when the Echo sits on a kitchen counter or desk. The new device will have a touchscreen measuring about seven inches, a major departure from Amazon’s existing cylindrical home devices that are controlled and respond mostly through the company’s voice-based Alexa digital assistant, according to two people familiar with the matter. This will make it easier to access content such as weather forecasts, calendar appointments, and news, the people said. They asked not to be identified speaking about a product that has yet to be announced. Amazon’s planned expansion of the Alexa-powered line coincides with growing competition from Alphabet Inc.’s Google Home speaker and Apple Inc.’s interest in building

Amazon Slashes Prices Across its Echo Smart Speaker Range for Black Friday

Amazon today began offering devices in its Echo smart speaker range at discounted prices for the first time in the products' short history, as part of its Black Friday Deals Week. For those unfamiliar with the devices, the connected speakers' array of microphones lets users query voice-based assistant Alexa, who can be asked to do things like play music, read the news, use apps, check the weather, turn on the lights, set timers, and more. The full-size Echo speaker is being offered at $140 (usually $180), while the second-generation Echo Dot – a smaller variant with the same features – has had $10 lopped off the price and is going for $40. Elsewhere, Amazon has slashed $40 off its Alexa-enabled portable Bluetooth speaker, now selling for $90 instead of $130. Apple is also offering its own Black Friday deals this year. For all the discounts on Apple products offered on Amazon, Apple, and elsewhere, be sure to check out the MacRumors Black Friday Holiday Roundup, continually updated throughout the week. MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon and may sometimes get paid if you click one of the above links and purchase a product or service.

Amazon Music Unlimited Launches With $3.99 Echo-Only Subscription Option

Amazon today launched Amazon Music Unlimited, its new standalone, on-demand streaming service. Amazon Music Unlimited is distinct from the company's Prime-only music library, which offers access to "over a million songs." By contrast, the new service promises access to "tens of millions" of songs from all the major labels. Prices start at $7.99 per month for Prime members and $9.99 per month for non-members, the latter of which puts it in the same cost bracket as Apple Music, Spotify, Google Play Music, and Tidal's standard price plans. A similar free 30-day trial is also being offered. In addition, Amazon is offering a separate $3.99 subscription plan for owners of connected speakers from the company's popular Echo range. The plan lets them stream music to Amazon's devices, but only those devices. A $14.99 per month (or $149 per year) family subscription plan for up to six people is currently in the works, and should become live later this year. Amazon says its library includes music from Sony, Universal, and Warner, as well as hundreds of indie labels, with thousands of curated playlists and personalized stations also accessible via the company's recently revamped mobile app. However, the service enters a crowded market already commanding millions of subscribers, which makes it increasingly difficult for newcomers to differentiate their service. In this respect, Amazon is likely betting on enticing existing Prime subscribers, and perhaps more significantly, those eligible for its Echo-only option, which could prove popular with a user base already familiar

Apple 'Pressing Ahead' Into Prototype Testing for Echo-Like Smart Home Device Powered by Siri

Apple is said to be "stepping up plans" for its connected smart home device powered by Siri, which would rival the technology that Amazon has made popular in its Alexa-enabled Echo speaker system (via Bloomberg). After two years of research and development, the Apple device is said to be in prototype testing, but because Apple hasn't officially finalized any plans it "could still scrap the project." Similar to Echo, the Siri device is said to be able to control smart home accessories like lights, locks, and curtains all through voice activation, and would most notably be the first new piece of Apple hardware introduced since the Apple Watch, and the iPad before that. To compete with Amazon -- and Google's own similar device called "Google Home" -- Apple will introduce "more advanced microphone and speaker technology," according to people close to the project. This could potentially include an ecosystem-wide upgrade to Siri's current functionality. Beyond the home device, Apple is researching new ways to improve Siri on iPhones and iPads, two people said. With an initiative code-named “Invisible Hand,” Apple hopes to give users the ability to fully control their devices through a Siri command system within three years, one of the people added. Currently, the voice assistant is able to respond to commands within its application, but Apple’s goal is for Siri to be able to control the entire system without having to open an app or reactivate Siri. For example, a user would be able to ask their iPhone to open a web page and then share it with a friend without the

Amazon Taking Pre-Orders For its Echo Smart Speaker in U.K. and Germany

Amazon yesterday announced its Echo connected smart speaker is now available to pre-order in the U.K. and Germany, signaling the end of a 14-month wait for the device to become available outside of the U.S. For those unfamiliar with the device, the Echo's array of microphones lets users query voice-based assistant Alexa, who can be asked to do things like play music, read the news, use apps, check the weather, turn on the lights, set timers, and more. The Amazon Echo costs £150 in the UK and 180 Euros in Germany, while Amazon Prime members get a £50 or 50 Euros discount off the sale price if they pre-order today. The Echo ships on September 28 and October 26, respectively, and the device is available in black or white. The company also made good on Tuesday's deleted tweet and announced an "all-new" version of the Echo Dot, a smaller $49.99 speaker that allows existing Echo owners to extend the smart system around the house. The Echo Dot, originally launched in March of this year at the price of $89.99, also lets existing Echo owners connect up their entertainment system and use Alexa to control streaming music services. The new Dot includes a faster speech processor than the old one and feeds into its Echo Spatial Perception feature, which enables the device to identify which speaker is closest to the user when a query is put to it. Otherwise, design differences between the first- and second-generation Echo Dot are subtle: the new Dot is marginally smaller and lighter, with an identical diameter but a height of 1.3-inches, compared to 1.5-inches, and

Deleted Amazon Tweet Leaks 'All New' $50 Echo Dot Smart Speaker

Amazon appears to be readying a cheaper version of its popular Echo Dot speaker, if a tweet that showed up briefly on the company's Twitter account this morning is anything to go by. The voice-controlled smart speaker that houses Amazon's personal assistant Alexa was announced back in March, costing $89.99, and is a smaller, palm-sized expansion to the company's flagship Echo product that lets users expand the capabilities of the latter device to different rooms of their house. Now it seems Amazon is almost set to offer a cheaper "all-new" version of the Dot at $49.99. The tweet, which was quickly deleted from the company's Twitter account but picked up by some users, linked to Amazon's existing page for the Echo Dot, which is currently sold out. Apparently not? @amazonecho: Introducing the all-new Echo Dot. Add Alexa to any room - now for just $49.99. https://t.co/AQkwY5xbHh/s/Z-sj— Darrin (@Indypodcaster) September 12, 2016 Recode queried the deleted tweet with Amazon spokespeople but they declined to comment, suggesting the pre-emptive tweet was a genuine accident. It's not the first social media announcement blunder we've seen this month. Last week, during Apple's "See You on the 7th" event in San Francisco, Apple's re-animated Twitter account began posting video clips of the new iPhone 7 complete with pre-order links before the phone had even been mentioned on stage. Amazon was also guilty of briefly taking its iPhone 7 accessories landing page live before the event had

Amazon Working on Echo $5-a-Month Music Streaming Service

Amazon is working on a $5-a-month music subscription service that will be exclusive to owners of the company's internet-connected Echo speaker. According to Recode, Amazon is planning to introduce the service in September alongside another music streaming service that costs $10 a month, to compete more directly with the likes of Apple Music and Spotify. Industry sources say the company has yet to finalize deals with major music labels and publishers. One sticking point is reported to be whether Amazon sells the cheaper Echo-only service for $4 or $5 a month. The $10-a-month service is said to replicate features common to the streaming market, such as unlimited, ad-free playback and an option to download music for offline listening. The company already offers Amazon Music as part of its Amazon Prime subscription package, but the music catalog is limited compared to streaming services like Tidal and Google Play Music. The $5-a-month service would be different to discounted subscription models that other companies have tried in the past. Not only will the $5 service be restricted to Echo owners, it won't be available to use on smartphones, which is what most users of existing streaming services sign up for. Amazon started shipping the Echo last year and reportedly sold a million units. The company is aiming to sell three million more this year and 10 million in 2017, according to The Information.