Amazon Echo users will be able to switch Alexa's voice to Samuel L. Jackson's and can now pre-order $ 300 high-end speakers to rival Sonos with "frustration detection" system that apologizes if it picks up anger
- Amazon announced loads of new products and features at an annual event
- The company unveiled three new versions of its Echo smart speaker
- Included are a high-end Echo Studio, a new Echo Dot, and third-generation Echo
- This will mark Amazon's first ever foray into high-end audio hardware
- New features for the Echo include frustration detection and celebrity voices
- Samuel L. Jackson wants to be the first celebrity voice to replace Alexa
Amazon has released a flurry of new hardware and software updates that expand on its popular series of Echo smart speakers and transform Alexa into celebrities like Samuel L. Jackson.
For the first time ever, Amazon announced at a keynote event in Seattle that it is letting Echo users turn Alexa into celebrities for a 'special price' or $ 0.99 for anyone that purchased a speaker in 2019.
Samuel L. Jackson will be among the first celebrities voice integrations and will come in both explicit (presumably with lots of f-bombs) and clean versions.
More celebrities are set to arrive on the device, though Amazon hasn't yet hinted at who those additions may be.
The company also announced new additions to its Echo hardware, including its first-ever high-end smart speaker which is calling the 'Echo Studio.'
At $ 199 the device will be more expensive than any of the company's predecessors, but will offer substantially upgraded hardware that includes 3D audio support, Dolby Atmos speakers, and is being promoted as a companion device for the company's recently announced 'HD' music streaming service.
The first-ever high-end smart speaker from Amazon will be called the Echo Studio and being positioned as a companion to the company's HD streaming service
Among the additions to the Echo smart speaker family are a third-generation Echo that has improved sound and a revamped design. A new Echo Dot will come equipped with a clock and a new snooze feature for extra shut-eye
The device will also be integrated with Amazon's Alexa voice assistant and is capable of calibrating the speaker settings depending on the shape and size of the room by using built in microphones to 'listen' to acoustics.
While the price tag of the Echo Studio is decidedly more powerful than the company's other devices, it's competitive with other players in the arena like Sonos, which sells most base models around a similar price.
Amazon also announced updates to its two less expensive models, including a third-generation Echo smart speaker for $ 100.
The company says the third-generation will usher in improved sound quality – driven by a new three-inch woofer that provides stronger bass and cleaner mid and high tones – and a new fabric design that comes in 'twilight blue.'
For those looking for an ever cheaper way to bring Alexa into their home, the company also announced an update to its smallest model or Echo speaker, the Dot.
The diminutive device will now come with an LED display that shows the time, timers, and the temperature and a snooze feature that gives users an extra nine minutes in bed.
This device will still be one of the cheapest models, retailing at $ 59.99 and will still sell alongside a clockless dot.
New hardware was not the only big news for Amazon's smart speakers.
The devices will also come with some interesting new features that are designed to improve users' experience with Alexa.
The inside of the new Echo Studio (pictured above) offers 3D sound capabilities and improved fidelity that can handle a new HD music streaming service by Amazon
Among those new features are the use of neural text-to-speech designed to make Alexa more human-like, similar to Apple's voice assistant, Siri.
Speakers will also come with what Amazon is calling 'frustration detection' that it says will help to discern when users are becoming irritated with the speaker for failing to execute a command.
For those users' troubles, the new feature will proffer an apology from Alexa that may help diffuse an otherwise tense exchange. Amazon said it will start rolling the feature for music requests initial but it will find its way into other services in the future.
WHICH SMART SPEAKER SHOULD YOU BUY?
Gadget makers are flocking to create smart speakers.
Already Samsung has revealed plans for a Bixby speaker to take on Apple's HomePod, Amazon's Echo and Google's Home.
Apple's speaker will have a higher price tag than the Amazon Echo range, which starts at $ 49 (£ 49) for the Echo Dot.
The speaker will provide a hub for appliances through Apple's HomeKit system and establish a center inside the home to lock people in to using other Apple services, according to the report.
A speaker might help customers stay loyal to other services such as Apple Music, Apple Watch, Apple TV and AirPods.
Google's $ 130 (£ 105) Home speaker is triggered by the phrase "Hey Google" while Amazon's Echo uses "Alexa."
Amazon's $ 50 (£ 40) Echo Dot puts the firm's smart speaker in a small package
Amazon's smart speaker is available in two versions – the full sized $ 180 (£ 145) Echo shown here, and a smaller, $ 50 (£ 40) version called the Echo Dot.
Amazon Echo uses Microsoft's Bing search engine to provide additional information, while Google Home uses the company's own Google Search.
Both Home and Echo are continually listening for commands, though Google and Amazon say nothing gets passed back to them until the speakers hear a keyword – "OK, Google" for Home and "Alexa" for Echo.
Google Home Mini: Google's clever tech-filled $ 49 (£ 34) donut can do almost everthing its bigger voice controlled Google Assistant poweredibling can do, including answer questions and control third-party devices.
Google's Assistant software is also able to answer follow-up questions on the same topic, in a near-conversation style, but Echo as yet cannot.
However, Amazon's Alexa software has a wider range of skills on offer that enable it to link up with and control more third-party devices around the home.
A light comes to remind you that it's listening.
You can turn off the microphone temporarily, too.
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