Amazon is launching the long-awaited Echo Show. The new Alexa-powered smart speaker includes a 7in touchscreen and video-calling features, as Amazon enters the next stage in an ongoing battle with Google to become the most popular in-home voice assistant.
The new AI is basically a cuboid Echo with a touchscreen and camera attached to it. It supports all of the far-field voice commands as the original, so you can use it to play music, control smart home gadgets, add items to a shopping list, check the weather, and do thousands of other things.
It operates like Amazon’s existing Echo and Echo Dot wifi-connected smart speakers, putting the company’s artificially intelligent voice assistant Alexa into the home. But unlike Amazon’s previous voice-only smart speakers, it will also have a touchscreen to show extra information, play videos from YouTube and elsewhere, show results for questions and other visual information that’s currently displayed when Alexa is asked a question on the firm’s Fire TV smart devices.
Amazon said: “Voice responses from Alexa are now enhanced with visuals and optimised for visibility across the room. Call or message your family and friends that also have an Echo or the Alexa App, get the news with a video flash briefing, see your Prime Photos, shop with your voice, see lyrics with Amazon Music, and more. All you have to do is ask.”
Along with the Echo Show, Amazon is launching a new communications platform for Alexa devices, which allows for calling and messaging between Echo units and smartphones that have the Alexa app installed. A feature called Drop-In lets the devices connect instantly, without requiring someone to “answer” the call. This allows the Echo Show to be an always-ready, internet-connected video intercom that I can call from anywhere in the world using my smartphone.
This feature is next level facetime ideal for communication with family and friends abroad or parents trying to contact their kids. FaceTime and similar services have their own limitations: they need a
smartphone, tablet, or computer open and available and for the other party to answer the call. A video intercom that’s always on and ready for a call has no such limitations. This means even a toddler can run over and answer the intercom immediately making it easier to contact loved ones.
The Echo Show will cost $230 in the US and will ship on 28 June from Amazon.