At an event in Seattle on Thursday, Amazon made a string of launches related to Amazon’s AI assistant Alexa. Amazon’s entry into the smart home market started about two years ago with the launch of Amazon dot ( Generation 1) in 2016.
Since then the Alexa powered devices have captured a significant market share owing to their low prices and effective performance. With the recent launch, it looks like Amazon wants to dominate the smart home market by having a device designed for each and every room inside the house including the kitchen. It is estimated that the smart speaker users of Amazon will increase by 30% in the coming year and roughly two-thirds of the entire smart speaker users in the US will be wielding an Amazon smart speaker.
Let us take a look into the launches made by Amazon
- Amazon Echo Dot: Amazon has refreshed it’s most popular smart speaker Echo dot, it will now have a fabric like cover finish which gives it a look like the rest of its competitors in the segment like Google Home Mini. What’s riveting is that it is still priced the same at $99. Amazon claims to have improved the quality of audio output on the speaker and that the new speaker will be 70% louder than the earlier echo dot.
- Echo Plus: Amazon has updated their Echo Plus speaker as well, there isn’t much change in the look of the speaker but Amazon claims to have improved the performance of the speaker and it will be able to give more discernible bass and clearer mids and highs. They have incorporated the “local voice control” which can be used to control the speaker when the internet connection is down. They have also added a temperature sensor which can be used to provide information regarding the temperature and also be integrated with devices such as fans to automatically switch them on when there is an increase in temperature. The Echo Plus is also tagged with the earlier price of $149.99
- Echo Sub: Amazon launched a companion to the existing Echo and Echo Plus. It is essentially a subwoofer which can be paired with one of the Echo speakers to enhance the bass and provide a more immersive experience. It is priced at $129.99.
- Echo Input: The new Echo input is meant to be acting as an input for the existing Echo speakers. It contains a series of far-field microphones which can be used to receive commands from a longer distance. It is thinner than the Echo Dot and is priced at $34.99
- Echo Link and Link Amp: The Amazon Echo Link is designed to link your existing stereo receiver or amplifier with Echo speakers or Alexa app. The Echo Link itself does not have any inbuilt microphones and depend on existing Amazon speakers for input. It is priced at $299.99
- Echo Show: The new Echo show comprises a bigger screen and sleek design. It does sort of look like an old version of the tablet with huge bezels on the sides. It has significantly upgraded its audio by including two side speakers and a passive radiator for bass. This should provide a better audio experience than the earlier Echo Show. It also has incorporated the support for Skype calls in this version of the Echo show. It will be sold at a price of $229.99
- Echo Auto: Amazon has launched a slightly creative device hoping to open the market for Alexa in automobiles. The Echo Auto will connect to Alexa through your mobile phone and plays over your car’s sound systems. It supports all the existing Alexa commands and also assists you in navigation by linking it with the navigation app of your preferred choice. Echo auto will be available on an invitation basis for the first few days at $24.99 with the actual price being $49.99
- Amazonbasics Microwave: Amazon’s subsidiary Amazonbasics is launching a new product which can be linked to your Echo devices via Bluetooth. The Echo devices can be used to give voice commands for the microwave and also includes several quick-cook presets for making your cooking experience easier. It is priced at $59.99 and will start shipping only later this year.
- FireTV Recast: The new Fire TV Recast allows you to stream Over-The-Air channels along with the existing video streaming apps and also allows you to record and replay any content to any Fire TV compatible devices. The Fire TV Recast will be coming in two variants, A two tuner model which allows you to record two shows at once with 500GB of Video recording space and a four tuner model with 1TB video recording space. The two tuner model has been launched at $229.99 and the four tuner model will be costing $279.99
- Ring Security Camera: The newly launched Stick up camera is well suited for both indoor as well as outdoor recording. When placed indoors, it can be integrated with the Ring alarms for alerting the user. It has night-vision, motion detection enabled and is IPX5 water resistant. It comes in two variants, wired and battery-powered configurations and both of them are priced at $179.99
- Echo Wall clock: The Echo wall clock will connect with your echo devices through Bluetooth just like the microwave and lets you set timers, alarms and change the time using Alexa commands. The clock will track the timer set by you with the help of a series of LEDs placed around the rim. It will cost $30 and will be available later this year.
- Echo Smart Plug: The Echo smart plug acts like a wireless plug which can be controlled with Alexa. It basically allows you to give commands to Alexa to switch ON or OFF an appliance which is connected to the plug. It will be available from October at a price of $24.99
Apart from these launches, Amazon has also made few announcements regarding the new Alexa features like Alexa Guard and Alexa Hunches.
- Alexa Guard: In a step to improve the home security, Amazon has introduced the Alexa Guard feature which helps the users to receive alert messages regarding intrusions or any unnatural activities. Once the user sets Alexa to guard mode while leaving the house, Alexa listens to the surroundings using the Echo speakers for any suspicious sounds or smoke alarm sounds and notifies the owner through phone regarding the same. In addition to this, Alexa will also be able to manage your smart lights to randomly change the lighting and make it look like there is a person inside the house.
- Alexa Hunches: Amazon is adding a new feature to better help you in your day to day tasks with the help of a “hunch”. It will ask you if you want to switch off your living room or porch room lights when you say goodnight in your bedroom. It learns and improves its hunches from time to time based on your preferences.
Speaking at the launch, Rohit Prasad, Vice President and Head scientist for Amazon Alexa said that,
“We’ve only scratched the surface of AI-powered inventions and we’ll continue to invent ways to make Alexa more useful for our customers”
In the end, it is quite possible that Amazon might monopolize the smart home market in the near future if the other companies do not catch up and start innovating.