We’re intrigued by Amazon’s new entry into the hardware market: the Echo. It’s essentially a cloud-connected smart audio system that can perform web searches in response to voice commands. With the widespread use of voice-based assistants such as Apple’s Siri, we wonder if it will be useful to have yet another in our midst, but since it can sit in the center of a room and be accessed by anyone nearby it can be used in a social and communal way, as opposed to being a private, single-user device. The official video (above) plays out a few scenarios for its use, including a family making music selections, a boy double-checking homework spelling and a woman asking for recipe help while cooking (hands free!).
The lack of a screen is an interesting design decision. Since the Echo can communicate with nearby tablets and phones, it can essentially “borrow” those screens as its own interface when visual output is needed, but as an audio-only device it lacks some of the expressive features that would make it compelling and satisfying to use. We’re thinking about how different it might be to more physically robotic systems such as the Jibo Family Robot.
Units will sell for $199 but a $99 special for Prime users is available by invitation. For more information here is the official Echo website.
We also love that it’s inspired a series of playful parodies such as this one.