What does Amazon Echo have to do with shopping?
On Nov. 7, Amazon surprised the tech community by introducing Echo, a voice-activated, personal digital assistant. While compared to Apple’s Siri, Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana in many reviews, Echo is a speaker that’s designed to sit in living rooms rather than on smartphones.
Costing $199 ($99 for Prime members), the device (9.25 inches height, 3.27 inches width) is turned on after hearing a predetermined "wake" word. Using voice recognition software, commands can provide:
News, weather, and information: Up-to-the-minute weather and news from a variety of sources, including local radio stations, NPR, and ESPN from TuneIn. Example commands included: "What’s the weather in Los Angeles this weekend?"; "Will it rain tomorrow?"
Music: Promising "immersive sound," Bluetooth technology enables the device to link to Spotify, iTunes, and Pandora from the user’s phone or tablet. Example commands: "Play music by Bruno Mars"; "Play my dinner party playlist."
Alarms, timers, and lists: Voice-controlled alarms, timers, shopping and to-do lists. Example commands: "Set an alarm for eight a.m."; "Add make hotel research to my to-do list."; "Add gelato to my shopping list."
Questions and answers: Getting information from Wikipedia, definitions, answers to common questions. Example commands: "Wikipedia: Abraham Lincoln"; "How many teaspoons are in a tablespoon?"
Echo has seven microphones with noise-cancellation software so that users to be heard from anywhere in a room — even with music on. Using a smartphone or desktop app, the alarms, music, shopping lists, etc. can be managed away from home.
According to the company, Echo’s "brain is in the cloud, running on Amazon Web Services so it continually learns and adds more functionality over time. The more you use Echo, the more it adapts to your speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences."
With the disappointing Fire Phone aggressively linked to Amazon.com shopping, tech bloggers speculated wildly on how Echo may work to bring "no-click" shopping to reality. Beyond adding to Amazon.com shopping lists, users can buy digital music from Amazon.com. But many predict users will eventually be able to add e-books to their Kindle library or purchase physical items from Amazon directly from Echo.
James McQuivey, at Forrester Research, told Wired. "Sure, it doubles as a connected speaker and some people will end up buying it for that, but the Echo will only achieve its real purpose when you start asking it questions, having it complete tasks for you — especially shopping tasks — just the way Apple hopes its users will interact with Apple Watch."
- Amazon Echo – Amazon.com
- Amazon’s Weird Siri-Like Speaker Is Yet Another Way to Get You to Shop – Wired
- Amazon Echo a must have for people who must have stuff – Chicago Tribune
- Why Amazon Echo is the future of every home – Computer World
- Amazon Echo is a voice-controlled smart speaker – CNET
- Amazon unveils Echo device, despite Fire losses – The Seattle Times (tiered sub.)
- Amazon’s Echo Might Be Its Most Important Product In Years – Gizmodo
Do you see Amazon Echo as a potentially expansive shopping tool for Amazon? Do you see break-through appeal for Echo and potentially other home-based digital assistants?