Tech

Amazon To Roll Out Echo Smart Home Assistant In UK And Germany

By Bien R. Gruba III , Sep 14, 2016 08:20 PM EDT
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Online retail giant Amazon will bring its highly anticipated voice-activated smart home assistant "Echo" to U.K. and German consumers. The Seattle-based tech behemoth announced that its smart home product, Echo, will be available in U.K. and German retailers by fall this year.

This will be the first time Echo will sell in foreign markets outside the U.S. The device is priced at £150 in the U.K. while it will cost consumers €180 in Germany, the EU's strongest economy, based on a Bloomberg report.

According to the Telegraph, there are three different Echo devices sold in the US - the Echo, the Echo Dot, a smaller version for external speakers, and the Amazon Tap, a portable speaker.

Amazon said that customers can pre-order the device.

Echo debuted in 2014 and the screenless speaker device became an unprecedented hit for Amazon, catapulting the retail company to the forefront of  voice activated home devices and giving the company a head start over Apple Inc. and Google which have also been trying to create smart home devices.

Echo allows users to listen to music while also permitting voice activated questions and commands, some of which are item orders from Amazon. 

According to the Telegraph, Amazon positioned the Echo as an easy to use personal assistant Alexa that has the capability to do "around 300 different functions powered through third parties apps like Spotify and Domino's.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said in a statement that the Echo is a "fourth pillar" of the company's business, along with Amazon Prime, Amazon Web Services and its online retail marketplace.

According to Bloomberg, users can interact with Echo saying "Alexa," followed by a command. For Example: "Alexa, what's the weather going to be like today?" "Alexa, play Van Morrison songs." "Alexa, add paper towels to my Amazon order."

Other mobile apps like Spotify, Uber and other news organizations can also be accessed using Echo. For its European debut, Amazon announced partnerships European tech companies like Spiegel Online, Sky Sports, Just Eat and Skyscanner.

To cater to its U.K. and German customers, Echo was given a female-sounding voice that has a tinge of British for U.K. users while German consumers will hear a voice with a slight German accent. For instance, when a British user asks Echo how to spell "color," the device will give the British spelling: "C-O-L-O-U-R." 

"It's really important for us as U.K. customers that we don't have to change the way we talk," said David Hardcastle, a senior manager in the Alexa voice recognition group in Cambridge, England.

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