Amazon Announces Release of New Voice-Controlled Smart Speaker

Amazon's Echo is a smart speaker that retails for $199.

Amazon has announced its release of a wireless smart speaker with voice recognition.

Named Echo, Amazon's speaker will retail for around $199. To place an order, prospective owners must request an invitation to purchase the speaker. Once they've received their invitation, Amazon Prime members will be able to order the speaker for $99 for a limited time. A firm shipment date has not been announced, but the new speaker is expected to ship within the coming weeks.

The speaker's operating system resides within the cloud, making it easy to update frequently. When users first receive the speaker, they are able to activate its operation by speaking the word "Alexa" out loud. After changing the activation code, users can enjoy hands-free control of the speaker, directing its actions with spoken commands and questions. Users can control the volume and turn off the microphones with the blue dial and buttons on the front of the unit.

The speaker employs far field technology and seven microphones that work together to recognize a user's voice, even from across a room. In addition to broadcasting the user's favorite tunes, Amazon's speaker can answer questions in a fashion similar to Apple's digital assistant, Siri. Users can ask the speaker for news and weather updates, create and modify lists, research information on Wikipedia, set reminders and alarms and much more.

The speaker is Bluetooth-enabled, so users can stream music from their favorite phone and tablet apps, in addition to streaming music and playlists from the cloud. The speaker can be used by everyone in the household, and it's always on and connected to the cloud via the user's home Wi-Fi system.

The Echo will have compatible Android and Fire apps that provide more ways for users to manage their music, lists and reminders. Users will also be able to manage these features from a web-based interface.

Photo Credit: Amazon


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock