Amazon Echo debuts as Siri-like digital assistant disguised as a speaker

By April Taylor , Nov 07, 2014 09:48 AM EST

A new Amazon Echo device has popped up, arriving as a Siri-like digital assistant packed into an always-on speaker shaped like a tube.

Users will be able to leave the Amazon Echo on all day and give it voice directions, telling the device what music to play, make inquiries regarding the weather or something else, set an alarm, and so on.

"Amazon Echo is designed around your voice. It's always on - just as for information, music, news, weather, and more. Echo begins working as soon as it hears you say the wake word, 'Alexa.' It's also an expertly-tuned speaker that can fill any room with immersive sound," touts Amazon.

The company further boasts that Echo's voice recognition system can hear you across the room, as it houses no less than seven microphones inside its light ring. By using beam-forming technology, these sensors can hear you from any direction. Moreover, Echo uses enhanced noise cancellation so it can hear a question even while it's playing music.

At the same time, Echo relies on the cloud and runs on Amazon Web Services so it constantly gets smarter by continuously learning and adding more functionality over time. More specifically, the more you use it, the more it will learn to adapt to your vocabulary, speech patterns, personal preferences, and so on. The speaker part of the Echo job description, meanwhile, is quite promising as well.

"Echo has been fine-tuned to deliver crisp vocals with dynamic bass response. Its dual downward-firing speakers produce 360⁰ omni-directional audio to fill the room with immersive sound," Amazon further details. "Echo provides hands-free voice control for Amazon Music, Prime Music, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn. Plus, Echo is Bluetooth-enabled so you can stream other popular music services like Spotify, iTunes, and Pandora from your phone or tablet."

Amazon Echo also features companion apps on Fire OS and Android, as well as desktop and iOS browsers, allowing users to manage their alarms, music, shopping lists, and others, even when they're away from home.

The new Amazon Echo comes with a $199 price tag, or $99 for Amazon Prime customers. The device, however, will be available in the coming weeks on an invitation-only basis. Interested customers can request an invitation from Amazon at this link.

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