By Dan Moren
May 9, 2017 7:27 AM PT
Echo Show ships on June 28 for $230
Note: This story has not been updated for several years.
That Echo with a screen? Totally true. Amazon unveiled the Echo Show this morning, which adds a 7-inch touchscreen into the mix, as well as the ability to make and receive video calls using a built-in camera.
Among the other features Amazon touts for the touchscreen are the ability to watch video flash briefings and YouTube videos, as well as see music lyrics, view photos, get weather forecasts, and more. It’ll also integrate with smart security cameras and baby monitors, letting you bring up the feed from a compatible camera with your voice.
The video-calling feature appears to be a proprietary Amazon technology, but it isn’t limited to the Echo Show. You can chat, for free, with anybody who has the Alexa app on their iOS, Fire OS, or Android smartphone or tablet. (It also appears as though you’ll be able to make voice calls to other Echo devices without a screen, so presumably existing devices will be able to make voice calls to each other and the Alexa app as well.) For those concerned about privacy, a mute button will deactivate the mic and camera.
Calling isn’t the only communication technology that Amazon’s rolling out, either. You can also send messages between people with Echo or the Alexa app, using your voice, and there’s a “Drop In” feature that sounds like a sort of intercom, which Amazon says is designed to let you do things like check in on a baby or an elderly relative. (That feature can be enabled on a device-by-device basis.)
On the audio front, the Echo Show has eight mics, plus beam-forming and noise-canceling technology to make it easier for it to hear you. It also has a pair of Dolby-enhanced stereo speakers and, as with the Echo Dot, can pair over Bluetooth with smartphones for audio input or with Bluetooth speakers for audio output.
The Echo and its attendant “skills” have proved to be a far more attractive ecosystem for developers working with Amazon than the company’s somewhat disastrous attempt at smartphones and tablets, but it remains to be seen if those same developers will want to spend the time to enhance their current app offerings with visual elements.
As for the device itself, while Amazon makes good arguments for the additional functionality a touchscreen can bring, there’s still a question of whether users will find it as appealing as the voice-based Echo. It’s certainly more like a traditional computing device, and it comes at a premium over something like a tablet. Still, perhaps Amazon is on to something with its appliance-like approach to computing. The Echo Show is part tablet, part PC, and part smart television–and, admittedly, its aesthetics kind of look like a Frankensteined version of all of those devices. (Then again, people have bought way uglier products over the history of consumer technology.)
Retailing for $230–and available in black or white–the Echo Show arrives on June 28; preorders are now being accepted.
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at @email@example.com or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is now available for pre-order.]
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