This post is a part of our People’s Insights monthly brief for November, called “Disrupt, or be Disrupted.”
Amazon has had mixed success with its new products. The Kindle was a huge hit and fuelled the market for ereaders. The Amazon Fire phone on the other hand entered a crowded market and failed to make a dent.
The new Amazon Echo launched in November, but critics are unsure if it will be a hit or if it is ahead of its time.
A virtual assistant for your home
Amazon’s Echo merges voice-activated commands (similar to Siri and Ok, Google) with a speaker designed for your home. It’s currently invite-only and priced at $199 for normal users and $99 for Amazon Prime subscribers.
The device responds to the names “Amazon” or “Alexa.” People can ask it to read out the news, weather and Wikipedia entries and answer general questions (like what is the tallest mountain in the world?). Echo can also play music from Amazon play-lists or online radio stations, create to-do lists and set alarms. It can even connect with devices over Bluetooth and stream music.
Echo uses far-field voice recognition technology. Its seven speakers can pick up sound-commands from across the room.
It also comes with noise cancellation so it can hear commands even while it is playing music. Its speakers offer 360 degree surround sound.
An all-in-one speaker, virtual assistant, and voice-activated Siri. So, why are critics so skeptical?
Processes commands in the cloud
Echo processes all commands by sending them to the cloud. Amazon positions this as a good thing – Echo is always getting smarter, adding new features and adapting to your speech patterns and preferences.
But people aren’t too excited by the “always on” speaker transmitting information to the cloud.
In fact, this is one of the major criticisms of the device – it doesn’t address privacy concerns in today’s post NSA-revelation age. The other criticism comes from Siri and Ok, Google users: “my phone already acts as my virtual assistant.”
Tech journalists and bloggers aren’t quite sure what to make of the Echo. It doesn’t help that someone made a parody of Amazon’s Echo ad the same day it was released (or that the parody received a million views more than the original).
As more people receive the Echo and upload video reviews on YouTube, the sentiment may change. Some people are already responding to video reviews with detailed questions about the product and positive reactions. According to the comments so far, the Echo seems to be a great fit for the elderly, non-tech savvy and visually impaired.
Watch the video: Introducing Amazon Echo