Amazon Echo will launch in the UK on September 28. The voice controlled speaker and smart home interface will be joined by a second-generation Echo Dot in November. The two will retail for £150 and £50 respectively.
Speaking at the Amazon launch in London yesterday, Senior Vice President of Amazon Devices & Services, Dave Limp, says the original inspiration for Echo was Star Trek, specifically the voice controlled computer used throughout the Starship Enterprise.
Amazon Echo incorporates a Bluetooth-enabled omnidirectional speaker and is available in black or white. The system uses a voice assistant called Alexa. In addition to answering questions, playing music and reading news, Alexa is increasingly being integrated with smart home functionality, using ‘skills’.
Amazon has made its APIs openly available to encourage development. Hue lighting, Hive and Tado smart thermostat control, WeMo, Netatmo, and Sonos multiroom audio are just some of the applications available or coming soon. Other third party developers include Uber, Spotify, National Rail Enquiries and Just Eat. Developers can use the free Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) to build new skills for the platform.
Unlike the Echo, the Echo Dot does not have a built-in speaker. Instead it can be partnered with any Bluetooth speaker, or connected directly to a sound system via line input. Like Echo, the Dot can be used as a voice interface to control smart home devices, or integrated with a home entertainment system to voice stream Amazon Music, Prime Music, Spotify and TuneIn radio.
The Dot is intended for multi-room deployment and as a consequence will also be sold in multipacks – buy 5 and get 1 free, or buy 10 and get 2 free
Demos of the Echo at the Amazon launch were highly impressive. The System uses noise cancellation technology to hear commands, even when the system is playing loud music, while far-field voice control with Beam Forming technology allows users to ask Alexa questions without hovering over the microphone.