Amazon's Alexa voice assistant platform now has a face, and it's able to dial up your friends and family directly. On Tuesday Amazon unveiled Echo Show, the latest version of the company's intelligent Bluetooth speakers that play host to Alexa. But the Echo Show has one big new feature: a seven-inch display that can play videos, connect to security cameras and even make video calls to anyone with an Echo Show or the Alexa mobile app.
Echo Show is reminiscent of a miniature tabletop version of the futuristic voice responsive video walls from so many works of science fiction. The device listens for vocal commands via eight microphones with noise cancellation that can hear across a room, or even when music is playing.
The device plays music from Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify and other connected services, can control smart home devices like Ring, Wemo and Hue lights, hail an Uber and perform any other number of the thousands of available "skills" in Alexa's library.
To be clear, the Echo name refers to Amazon's own line of Alexa hardware, while Alexa is the name given to the actual voice assistant and skills platform, which is available on Echo and other third-party devices ranging from a new pair of smart headphones to smart lamp from GE.
It appears that Echo Show will only be able to play video from a relatively limited number of sources, at least at the start. Alexa will be able to play YouTube and news video clips, but don't expect to fire up Netflix, Hulu or the myriad other content sources available on, say, Amazon's Fire TV just yet.
Echo Show does get one big new skill for its little video screen, though: the ability to make video calls via its 5-megapixel camera to anyone else with the device or the Echo app, which is available on Android, iOS and Fire OS. There's also an interesting new feature called Drop Ins, which allows anyone with pre-approved access to instantly see what a remote Echo Show camera sees. It provides an always-accessible window into wherever Echo Show is setup.
Echo Show plugs into the wall – no portable battery-powered version a la Amazon Tap just yet – and runs over Wi-Fi. You can also connect to play music over its Dolby stereo speakers via Bluetooth, or send audio from Echo Show to another Bluetooth audio device.
Amazon is taking pre-orders for Echo Show now for US$229.99 with a ship date of June 28.
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