Amazon’s hardware event today was unsurprisingly filled with new Echo devices that let you talk to Alexa without looking at an ugly puck. The new Echos are actually… kind of cute, with a spherical design that evokes Disney’s Epcot Centre. But there was also an indoor spy drone, because why not? Let’s dive into everything Amazon announced today.
A Drone for Your Home
Amazon owns Ring, in case you forgot, and without a doubt the weirdest thing announced today is a $US250 ($354) Ring Always Home Cam, an indoor autonomous flying camera. This thing looks, frankly, wild as hell. The idea behind the drone, which is due out next year, is that sometimes you want to check a specific area in your home while you’re out, but you don’t want to put cameras in every single room. You can simply fly your drone cam over to the area you want to peep in on. Your Ring Alarm security system will activate the drone if it’s triggered, heading over to the spot where the system was tripped to see what’s going on. You’ll be able to watch a stream of the situation unfolding right from your phone. I honestly don’t know how I feel about this! What a time to be alive.
Among an avalanche of new Echo and Ring devices announced by Amazon today, there’s one that stuck out as a clear step towards our dystopian future: the Ring Always Home Cam.Read more
Ring also has a few new car-related products, which will be available next year ranging from $US60-$US200 ($85 – 283). The $US200 ($283) Ring Car Cam is a security camera for your car that will monitor for break-ins and also let you summon Alexa when you’ve been pulled over. The camera will start recording your interactions with the police, which could be very useful in the year 2020! These are not available in Australia yet.
Then there’s Ring Car Connect, an API that will enable auto-makers to offer buyers smartphone notifications and video footage of any issues with their cars (break-ins, towing, etc.). The first Ring Car Connect company is, of course, Tesla.
Echos That are Not Ugly
The $149 Echo, $79 Echo Dot, $99 Echo Dot with Clock, and $US60 ($85) Echo Dot Kids Edition look almost exactly the same, though the priciest Echo is obviously the most fully-featured. That model comes in three colours — charcoal, chalk, and steel blue — with Dolby sound, built-in Zigbee for smart home integration, and support for Amazon’s Footpath Bridge network coming later this year. The new echo replaces both the last-gen Echo and the Echo Plus.
The new Echo also has an AZ1 Neural Edge processor, which should make Alexa more responsive. More on Alexa in a second.
The Echo Dot gets the same look as the Echo for less, in three colours — white, grey, and blue — with a louder front-firing speaker. The Echo Dot with Clock looks the same, except with an LED clock.
Amazon has upgraded its Echo Dot, its smaller-sized Alexa device, giving it the spherical design and fabric covering of the new, larger-sized Echo. The Kids Edition Dots got similar treatment but instead of a bright candy cane design, these little guys now have Panda and Tiger faces and can even...Read more
The interesting announcement here is a new Kids’ Edition, which comes in fun panda and tiger motifs. Amazon is also adding support for kids’ profiles with Alexa, so basically, the company’s smart assistant is going to wend its way further into your child’s life. Can’t wait. The bonus is that when Alexa hears your child’s voice, on any Alexa-enable device, the assistant will automatically shift into kid mode with age-appropriate content.
There’s also a new Alexa feature for kids called Reading Sidekick, which will be available for Amazon Kids+ subscribers later this year. Alexa will be able to encourage and coach your kid through reading supported books. This does not appear to be available in Australia just yet.
If you want an Echo with a display, Amazon also has a new Echo Show: It’s $399, and it tracks your movement so you can always see the screen. I personally love a device with a camera that follows my motions. Just love it.
Most of the new Echos are available to preorder today.
Alexa Gets Scarily Smart
Amazon has been working to make Alexa sound more human, and that continues: The assistant will start pausing while she speaks (like you would pause to take a breath) and emphasising specific words. Amazon is also rolling out “teachable AI,” or the ability to teach Alexa yourself, which can’t possibly go wrong! Alexa will now ask questions that Amazon says will “fill gaps in her understanding” if you tell her that something she’s done is wrong.
Privacy is the big thing that gives people the heebie-jeebies when it comes to digital assistants like Alexa. But at Amazon’s devices and services event today, the company announced it was expanding privacy settings with regard to voice recordings.Read more
Alexa can also monitor babies crying, dogs barking, and snoring.
You can also now ask Alexa to delete everything you’ve ever said, which is a godsend.
A Game Streaming Service, Because Why Not?
Amazon already owns Twitch, where you can watch your favourite streamers play games. But now you can play games directly through Amazon itself with Luna, a cloud gaming service that will let you stream games on desktop (both Mac and PC), iOS and iPadOS, Fire TV, and eventually on Android. Luna+ is a $US6 ($9) game streaming service that gives you access to a library of games (including Resident Evil 7 and The Surge 2) and allows you to play on two devices at the same time.
Amazon is partnering with Ubisoft on Luna, with a new gaming channel that will allow subscribers to play Ubisoft titles like Far Cry 6 and Assassins Creed Valhalla when they come out at the same time as on other platforms.
(Important note: Amazon created web apps for iOS and iPadOS, which is how Luna will get around Apple’s rules about streaming game services.)
Of course, there’s Twitch integration: Luna players will see Twitch streams of games within the Luna app, and will be able to immediately start streaming Luna games within Twitch.
And, because this is a hardware event, there’s also the $US50 ($71) Bluetooth Luna game controller, which is obviously Alexa-enabled.
Luna is available to sign up for early access today in select regions. It’s currently not available in Australia.
Upgraded Mesh Routers
In case you forgot, Amazon also owns Eero, the popular mesh router system.Two new Eero routers, both compatible with Wifi 6, are coming: the base Eero is $US130 ($184), and the upgraded Eero Pro 6 is $US230 ($326). Neither of these are listed on Amazon Australia yet.
Cheap As Hell Streaming Sticks
Amazon has two new Fire TV Sticks: A $US40 ($57) dongle with Dolby Atmos support and built-in Alexa, and a slightly less impressive Lite version for $59. (Only the Lite appears to be currently available in Australia.)
The overall Fire TV experience is also getting an upgrade, with a personalised home screen that makes it easy to jump into your most-watched streaming service and a new search tool that helps you find stuff to watch.
Both dongles are available to preorder today.
As you can see, Amazon announced a lot of shit today, some of it interesting, and most of it affordable. We have some questions about the privacy implications of all of these devices, as we always do with Amazon hardware, but will put them to the test when they launch.