If you’ve ever wished your Echo device was a control panel, well, good news: Amazon’s Lab126 hardware division is purportedly designing a wall-mounted Echo that can control your smart home and media, as well as host video chats.
The report comes via Bloomberg and cites anonymous sources as saying the wall-mounted Echo will be a “digital command centre.” Users will be able to view their upcoming events, control devices like smart lights or smart locks, as well as play music and video. And, duh, it would also feature Alexa, microphones, and cameras, because this is Amazon. The company is also reportedly considering versions with displays of either 10 or 13 inches, and because they’re meant to be installed in walls, Bloomberg’s sources say the device would be much thinner than current Echo gadgets.
Should everything go swimmingly, Amazon supposedly plans to launch either by the end of this year or next, with a price tag ranging from $250 – $325.
This is a pretty savvy hardware move from Amazon — though not exactly original. Chances are you’ve already seen iPads or other tablets mounted on walls in outside office conference rooms, or even in newer apartment buildings. Moving it into consumers’ homes is a natural next step, especially as more people adopt smart home gadgets like smart lights, thermostats, connected speakers, smart security cameras, and smart locks.
That said, we have some questions. Like, who is standing in front of a control panel to have video chats? Having cameras would make sense if you bought into the whole Ring nightmare, so you could see who’s outside on the wall Echo. But video calls to grandma? It feels like the Echo Show would be more suited for that. Another issue is how easy installation would be, and what requirements might be necessary. Will you have to hire outside contractors? What about apartment dwellers? A big problem with the smart home thus far as a concept is that currently available gadgets heavily favour homeowners. What about connectivity? What happens if your wifi goes out? (Please, don’t tell us it’ll use Amazon Footpath.)
It is, of course, too early to tell. According to Bloomberg, the gadget is still in the early stages of development, and the final product — should it ever see the light of day — could be vastly different. If successful, however, it could lead to some interesting developments on the smart home front.
Technically speaking, this wouldn’t even be the first wall-mounted Echo gadget. That dubious honour belongs to the Echo Wall Clock, which Amazon introduced in 2018. That thing, however, was a battery-powered analogue clock that also gave you a visual of how much time was left on your timers, back when most Echo gadgets didn’t have screens. Compared to that device, this would be a major step up. It’s just a matter of whether the added convenience will convince those who haven’t already bought into the Echo ecosystem to fully embrace Amazon.