Apple, Google, and Microsoft put all their respective virtual assistants in their phones. While Amazon has its own smartphone, the company has decided to bring their own take on the always-connected virtual assistant in a standalone device they’re calling the Amazon Echo.
A mobile speaker that looks and functions no differently than the multitude of products in the category, it lets you stream music from your phone or tablet over Bluetooth. However, it also comes with support for Amazon Music, Prime Music, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn Radio baked right into the speaker, so as long as it’s connected to the internet via WiFi, you can listen to music without having to fiddle with any other device.
The star of the show, of course, is the Amazon Echo’s virtual assistant, which you can trigger by simply uttering the wake word, “Alexa.” Like Siri, Google Now, and Cortana, you can ask it to find information, relay weather forecasts, set alarms, update to-do lists, and play specific music tracks in your library, with more features promised going forward. Since this is Amazon, you can also add items to your shopping lists, similar to the company’s Dash device (not sure if it gets added to your AmazonFresh account at this point, though).
It comes with an array of seven microphones along the top, which utilize beam-forming technology and enhanced noise cancellation to hear your commands from any direction. For a quality audio-listening experience, it uses dual downward-firing speakers that produce omnidirectional sound to fill the whole room.
For now, the Amazon Echo is only available in a limited capacity, so you’ll have to request for an invitation to get one. Price is $199.