Ever wanted to control your house with the power of your voice? Amazon Echo might be the product for you.
What is Amazon Echo?
Amazon Echo is a voice-controlled smart speaker created by the online retailer Amazon. Like other smart speakers, Amazon Echo serves as a hands-free hub for a variety of household functions, from playing music to checking the weather to controlling other smart devices like Wi-Fi-enabled air conditioners and lights. It is currently only available for purchase in the US, UK and Europe.
Using Amazon Echo involves speaking commands to Alexa, Amazon's virtual personal assistant. Alexa processes these commands through a cloud-based voice service, which means Amazon Echo requires a constant wireless Internet connection in order to function. On the upside, this also means Alexa's accuracy in voice recognition is constantly improving and new features are regularly being added to Alexa's repertoire.
To further enhance its speech detection, Amazon Echo sports a seven-microphone array capable of far-field voice recognition that can hear you ask a question even while music is playing. And for those late-night movie marathons where you don't want to wake up your housemates, you can control Amazon Echo via a traditional remote.
Buy Amazon Echo from Amazon AU
The second generation Amazon Echo features a stronger speaker than its previous iteration while still retaining all the hands-free functionality that made it one of the most popular smart speakers around.View details
What can Amazon Echo do?
Designed to be the centre of your smart home, Amazon Echo can perform a variety of different functions ranging from the informative to the entertaining. First and foremost, Alexa can answer a wide range of fact-based questions, pulling information from sources like Wikipedia and Amazon's own databases. Alexa can also read you the latest news, sports scores and weather forecasts as well as report on current traffic conditions.
Music is another of Amazon Echo's key features. By linking your Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and, of course, Amazon Music accounts to Amazon Echo, it can play music from these services through both its own speaker and through other connected audio devices. It can also stream tunes from Apple Music and Google Play Music as well as from a phone or tablet. Amazon Echo can also read audiobooks from your Audible library. And thanks to its omnidirectional speaker setup, Amazon Echo can ensure your music reaches all four corners of a room.
Amazon Echo also supports hands-free voice-calling to anyone with their own Amazon Echo, Echo Dot or the Amazon Alexa app. Best of all, this service is entirely free.
As the world's biggest online retailer, it's no surprise that Amazon built shopping functionality into Amazon Echo. Not only can you tell Alexa to order you the coffee you forgot to pick up last time you went grocery shopping, you can also have Alexa instantly add it to your shopping list so you won't forget next time. The only catch is that you have to be an Amazon Prime member to have Alexa place an order for you. Regular Amazon members can only add items to their shopping carts for later checkout through the Amazon website or mobile app. The shopping list functionality is available to both Prime and non-Prime members, however.
Finally, Amazon Echo's capabilities are constantly growing thanks to the Alexa Skills Kit. This open development platform allows anyone to build tools to expand Alexa's functionality and share them with other owners of Alexa-enabled devices. These tools grant Alexa a range of new abilities, from answering more questions to ordering pizza to organising an Uber. New skills are always being added, too, giving Amazon Echo the means to evolve faster than competing devices.
What other devices is Amazon Echo compatible with?
Amazon Echo works with a large library of smart home devices, from lights and ceiling fans to thermostats and security cameras. The number of compatible devices is constantly growing, but the following are some of the most popular product lines:
- Philips Hue lights
- LIFX LED lights
- Nest Thermostat
- Ring Video doorbell
- Nest Cam IQ
- Wink Smart Hub
- Samsung SmartThings Hub
- Arlo Pro security system
- TP-Link smart plugs
Other Alexa-powered Amazon devices will also work in conjunction with Amazon Echo to provide voice-recognition and audio playback throughout multiple rooms of a house. These devices include Amazon Tap, a portable version of Amazon Echo; Amazon Echo Dot, a smaller version of Amazon Echo with a lower-quality speaker; Amazon Echo Look, a camera that adds outfit recommendations to Echo's capabilities; and Amazon Echo Show, a version of Echo that includes an LCD screen.
When will Amazon Echo be available in Australia?
After much delay, Amazon opened pre-orders for Amazon Echo in Australia on 18 January 2018. The device itself is expected to begin shipping to customers from early February, with retail stores like JB Hi-Fi and Officeworks stocking the speakers at the same time.
How much will Amazon Echo cost?
Amazon Echo retails for $149 here in Australia, but as part of the launch celebrations, Amazon is taking $30 off the price and selling it for $119 for a limited time.
Amazon Echo specs
- 148 mm x 88 mm x 88 mm
- 2.5" woofer + 0.6" tweeter
- Dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac @ 2.4GHz/5GHz
- 7-microphone array