Amazon Echo: What Happens When You Put Siri Inside A Speaker

amazonechoHave you ever been working in the kitchen, or just sitting on the couch, and wanted to update your calendar, find out the weather, or get the answer to a trivia question… but your phone or computer was out of reach? Amazon is hoping to cater to people in that situation — and anyone who enjoys talking aloud to electronics — with its newly announced Amazon Echo speaker.

It’s basically a Web-connected home entertainment speaker (that will stream music from Amazon Prime and a couple of other services, along with allowing you to play anything else you want via a bluetooth connection) that contains seven integrated microphones to listen for commands and questions like “Play that song by that artist whose music I enjoy” or “Tell me the score of that sporting event on which I have bet my entire bankroll.”

Amazon says that Echo will allow you to update to-do lists, set alarms and timers, check the weather, get sports and news, get answers to questions from Wikipedia, along with the whole playing music thing.

Like other voice-activated devices, the Echo is always on and always connected to the Internet, but the voice directions only work when triggered by a specific word. In the video below, the fake family uses the name “Alexa.” If you’re allowed to name the Echo whatever you want, we imagine this will be a scatalogical laugh-fest in many college dorm rooms.

The retail price at launch will be $199 for non-Prime customers (Prime customers may be able to get it at $99 if they are among the first buyers), putting it in the same price range as the popular Sonos 1 speaker, which allows you access to many more streaming services but won’t tell you the weather in Mozambique.

Perhaps Amazon is learning from the mistake of its Fire phone, where it spent months hyping the device’s release only to put out an underwhelming, overpriced smartphone that no one wanted. The company is taking a different approach with Echo, announcing it without any advanced build-up but telling customers they have to get on a waiting list in order to buy one.