The Amazon Echo along with Alexa were first introduced three years ago. Since that introduction, the Amazon Echo and Alexa have become one of the most popular duos in the consumer technology world. Now, after three years, Amazon has taken the wraps off an all-new Amazon Echo with a few new features and a much nicer design. In their press release, Amazon had this to say when remembering the Echo’s roots.
“Three years ago we introduced the first Echo, powered by Alexa, with a goal to fundamentally simplify and improve the way customers interact with their homes,” said Tom Taylor, Senior Vice President, Amazon Alexa. “Today, Alexa can make calls, play music in every room, turn on your lights, and even order you a pizza. But it’s still day one, and today we’re making Echo and Alexa even better. The all-new Echo and Echo Plus deliver better sound, all new far-field technology, and new features we think customers will love.”
The new Amazon Echo is much smaller than the outgoing model and you’ll be able to choose shell colors which include charcoal, sandstone, heather gray, oak veneer, walnut veneer, and silver. Amazon claims the sound on the new Echo is more immersive with a dedicated tweeter, a 2.5” down-firing woofer, and Dolby processing. This is supposed to produce crisp vocals and dynamic bass. Amazon is also touting second generation far-field technology. The new far-field technology is supposed to have better wake word processing, improved beamforming technology, and enhanced noise cancellation.
Amazon is also introducing the Echo Plus which has a built-in smart home hub. Set up of the smart hub to your compatible smart devices is as simple as asking Alexa to discover your devices. The set-up works with a variety of ZigBee products from leading brands such as Philips Hue, GE, Kwikset, and more. The Echo Plus is supposed to have further enhanced audio performance with 360-degree omnidirectional audio, and Dolby processing.
New Alexa features include:
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Alexa Routines – Routines allow you to automate a series of customizable actions using a single voice command of your choice. For example, say, “Alexa, good night,” and Alexa will turn off the lights, lock the door, and turn off the TV. You can also create Routines based on the time of day – for example, you can create a Routine that has Alexa turn on the kitchen lights, start the coffee maker, and read the weather forecast at 6 a.m. every weekday and at 9 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday.
Routines are compatible with popular Works with Amazon Alexa lights, plugs, switches, and door locks from leading brands like TP Link, Philips Hue, Wemo, and August, and will be available for all Alexa devices including the all-new Echo, the previous generation Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, and Echo Plus starting next month.
Improved smart home groups – You no longer need to remember the specific name of a smart device or group of smart devices to control them. Now you can place your Echo and smart devices into smart home groups, which enables Alexa to act intelligently on your request, making your interactions with your smart home more natural and effortless. For example, when you walk into the kitchen, you can now say to your Echo “Alexa, turn on the lights” rather than “Alexa, turn on the kitchen overhead lamp.”
This feature will be available on the all-new Echo, the previous generation Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, and Echo Plus starting next month.
Call anyone with Alexa – Four months ago, Amazon introduced Alexa calling and messaging, and millions of customers have started using the feature. Now, Amazon is expanding this feature to include support for free outbound calling to phone numbers within the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Just say “Alexa, call Mary’s mobile,” and Alexa will call Mary’s mobile phone from your smartphone’s contact list. Alexa can also dial phone numbers that you speak to her so that you can reach people or businesses that aren’t in your contacts. Calls to 911 are not supported. This feature is available for all Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show customers starting today in the US.
Echo Buttons introduce new gaming experience with Alexa – Echo Buttons are new devices that deliver ways for customers to play games with friends and family using Alexa. The buttons illuminate and can be pressed to trigger a variety of multiplayer and interactive game experiences. There will be a number of new Echo Button-compatible skills available this holiday season including Sounds Fun with Mike Epps, Buzzer Beater Basketball Trivia with Karl-Anthony Towns, Fourth Down Football Trivia with Philip Rivers, Full Count Baseball Trivia with Buster Posey from Ground Control, as well as Beat the Intro from Musicplode. Echo Buttons will come in a two-pack, priced at $19.99, and will arrive in time for the holidays in the US, UK, and Germany. Echo Buttons are the first of many Alexa Gadgets, a new collection of accessories that enable fun and playful Alexa experiences. Sign up at https://www.amazon.com/AlexaGadgets to receive notifications and updates when Echo Buttons are available for purchase.