At the beginning of Amazon’s Alexa event Thursday, Amazon’s senior vice president of devices and services Dave Limp announced an update to the massively popular Amazon Echo Dot. Addressing a crowd in the Spheres, the collection of glass-domed, plant-filled conservatories at Amazon’s headquarters, Limp described how with louder, crisper sound and a more pleasant fabric housing, the new Echo Dot was a natural evolution of a wildly successful product.
But more than an hour—and over a dozen new product reveals—later, it became clear that Alexa, the voice-enabled assistant technology underlying Amazon’s devices, has been growing so fast in the four years since its launch that it’s approaching ubiquity. Or at least that’s what Amazon hopes.
These five new Amazon Echo products reveal how the e-commerce giant hopes to put Alexa everywhere you are.
Amazon Echo Dot
According to Limp, Amazon went back to the drawing board with its redesign of the Amazon Echo Dot, which the company is calling the best-selling speaker, ever. The Dot’s new fabric-based industrial design helps it to deliver more powerful sound (and the fact that they’ve crammed a larger driver in the device helps). As previously, the Echo Dot can be used to connect to other devices via Bluetooth or audio input. It also keeps the same price, $49 starting next month.
Amazon Echo Clock
Though products are typically kept under wraps at events like these, the Amazon Echo Wall Clock stared attendees in the face all morning long—until it was beckoned. Basically, an analog clock with an embedded microphone, this Alexa-enabled timepiece is great for setting timers—one of the platform’s most-used skills. But where the Echo Clock sets itself apart from speakers like the Echo Dot, its dial lights up to show how much time remains on the timer. And as a bonus, because its connected to the internet, the $29 clock will set itself come Daylight Savings time, or at least it will when it ships later this year.
Amazon Echo Auto
One of Amazon’s most ambitious products announced Thursday was its Echo Auto device. “Do not let the size of this device fool you,” said Limp of the product, which is about the size of a deck of cards and beasts an eight-mic array that rivals the big soup can-sized Amazon Echo Plus. And with road noise, music blaring, and the heater or air conditioner blowing, those extra ears are necessary.
But also necessary was a secure, fast-booting system that is ready to go when the car starts (or shortly thereafter). Connecting to existing autos’ systems via Bluetooth, auxiliary audio jacks, and to phones (for mobile data), the idea behind Echo Auto is to make Alexa into an ambient operating system that goes where you do—and is location aware. If it sounds challenging, it is—and that’s why its currently invitation-only with no listed price as of this time.
Amazon Basics Microwave
Slipping Alexa smarts into a microwave might seem easy on the face of it, but it’s really not. Microwaves work on the 2.4Ghz spectrum, which drives Wi-Fi bonkers, and they have a user interface that was conceived of in the 1970s. The new Amazon Basics Microwave adds voice control to the countertop oven, so you can bark orders at your appliances like you’re Gordon Ramsey.
For example, simply pop a potato into the microwave (that was the example Amazon used) and say “one potato” (not “two potatoes, three potatoes, four”) and the smart cooker will reply by firing up with the ideal cooking time (6:24, if you must know). Want to add time, simply say “Alexa, add 30 seconds to the microwave.”
Now, you may think you don’t need a voice-enabled microwave, and you’re probably right. But Amazon has one good reason why you do: It will cost $59 when it launches later this year.
Amazon Smart Plug
Smart plugs may seem like a dime a dozen—and for how frustrating they can be, they ought to cost that much. But Amazon’s new $24.99 wonder packs more than just on-and-off capabilities. In fact, the Amazon Smart Plug is really a front for the company’s new frustration-free installation initiative. Basically, the company thinks that installing any smart device should be as easy as plugging it in.
Limp walked through the process himself, and if it works at advertised, Amazon might win over the masses with this approach. He plugged a light into the Amazon Smart Plug and plugged it into the wall. Less than 30 seconds later, his Amazon Echo Plus recognized the “Smart Plug 1” and asked him if he wanted to rename it. He told Alexa to rename it as “bedroom light.” Then, a moment later, he said “Alexa, turn off bedroom light,” and, brilliantly, it went dark.
Amazon hopes everything will work this way in the future, but Limp admitted that the new frustration-free installation won’t be everywhere, immediately. “It will take us a while.,” he said more than once. That’s not a surprise—usually these things take time.