Viral Now: Amazon Echo, the 'Digital' Assistant

By Saumya Tewari , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | November 11, 2014
Amazon's new launch, Echo, delivers information, music, news, weather, and more once it hears the wake word, Alexa.

In an age when technology has leapfrogged, empowering consumers with useful gadgets such as smartphones, Amazon Inc has launched a device that empowers consumers' voices. Echo, a 20cm-tall black cylinder, sits in your home and listens to everything you do. The device is designed around voice and delivers information, music, news, weather, and more once it hears the wake word, "Alexa." This may remind many of iOS Siri or Google Now.

Amazon has announced the launch of the device by posting over a three-minute long video that features an American household who have just ordered Echo. The father in the video opens the packaging, revealing the product announcing that it is meant for 'everyone'. He asks the device 'Alexa, what you can do?' and pat comes the reply 'I can play music, answer questions, get the news on weather, create to-do list and much more.'

Intrigued by the device, all the family members inundate the device with questions on rock music, the height of Mount Everest, time and date even adding wrapping paper on the shopping list.

Posted on November 6 on YouTube, the video had garnered 1.8 million views until yesterday evening. Echo has an expertly tuned speaker that can fill any room with immersive sound. It has an array of seven microphones, which use beam-forming technology to hear you from any direction. With enhanced noise cancellation, Echo can hear you ask a question even while it's playing music.

Echo's brain is in the cloud, running on Amazon Web Services so it continually learns and adds more functionality over time. The more you use Echo, the more it adapts to your speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences.

Echo has been fine-tuned to deliver crisp vocals with dynamic bass response. Its dual downward-firing speakers produce 360 omni-directional audio to fill the room with immersive sound. Echo provides hands-free voice control for Amazon Music, Prime Music, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn. Plus, Echo is Bluetooth-enabled so you can stream other popular music services like Spotify, iTunes, and Pandora from your phone or tablet.

Echo doesn't stop working when you're away from home. With the free companion app on Fire OS and Android, plus desktop and iOS browsers, you can easily manage your alarms, music, shopping lists, and more.

To set up the device one needs to connect it to their home network with a simple setup process, guided by the free companion app. At present, Echo is listed on priced at $199 and is available by invite only.

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