Does Alexa need a screen?
Amazon is developing a premium version of its popular Echo speaker that adds a seven-inch touchscreen display to Alexa, its voice-driven digital assistant, according to a report from Bloomberg.
Adding touchscreen technology will make it easier for users to access weather forecasts, calendar appointments and news, sources told Bloomberg. The device will be larger than the current speakers and will be able to tilt upwards, making it easier for users to operate on a counter or elsewhere while standing.
Also being tested is the ability to “pin” items such as photos on the speaker’s screen, as one might place reminders on a fridge. The device, which will pack a better speaker, could arrive early in 2017 and will be priced above its Dot, Tap and Echo speakers. The whole range would continue.
In May, The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon was working on adding a visual aspect to Alexa’s audio functions “so that users can summon web pages, videos or images when, say, their hands are covered in flour.”
Indeed, although the Bloomberg article didn’t point to the benefit, several tech writers following up on the news felt that a screen would naturally help cooks needing a video to follow recipe directions.
International Business Times writer Owen Hughes feels the pin function would support adding shopping lists or do-to lists to the screen’s display.
Carolina Milanesi, a principal analyst at Creative Strategies, a consumer tech research firm, believes shopping would be a primary benefit. Writing for Recode, she stated, “If I am trying to buy furniture, clothes and gifts, being able to see them is a huge improvement versus Alexa just calling out the description of the item.”
Overall, adding a screen was seen as a way to stay ahead of Google and Apple.
One risk, however, was that a second input mechanism could slow down adoption for Alexa’s “voice first” capabilities, argues Ms. Milanesi. Last week, Amazon introduced new artificial intelligence services for developers that promise to help Alexa further understand context and user intent.
- Amazon Said to Plan Premium Alexa Speaker With Large Screen – Bloomberg
- Amazon reported to be working on new, high-end Alexa smart speaker with built-in touch screen – International Business Times
- Amazon Wants Alexa to Take Control of Your Smart Home – The Wall Street Journal
- Amazon said to plan Alexa speaker with 7-inch touchscreen for 2017 – TechCrunch
- Hey Amazon, we’re still getting used to voice-first devices — please don’t give Echo a screen – Recode
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Would adding a screen to Alexa enhance its potential as a shopping medium or encumber it? Do you see more benefits than drawbacks to adding a screen version to the Echo ecosystem?