Amazon unveiled its vision for smart homes powered by the Alexa voice assistant, with a dizzying array of new gadgets and features for almost every room in the house& —& from a microwave oven to a security camera and wall clock.
The Seattle internet giant is pushing Alexa more deeply into customers’ lives, hoping to popularize technology that has yet to go mainstream and connecting people more to Amazon’s universe of things to buy. CEO Jeff Bezos sees voice as the next interface linking people and machines, like a mouse on personal computers and touchscreens on smartphones.
The $50 hockey puck-shaped Dot is one of Amazon’s best-selling devices, and with sound that Amazon describes as 70 percent better, it’s going after audiophiles on Sonos turf. Amazon also introduced a subwoofer to go along with existing Echo products as well as a pair of amplifiers that work like audio control centers for the home.
The Echo speaker, with the Alexa voice assistant, debuted in 2014 and has maintained a lead over tech competitors Google and Apple, which have scrambled to catch up. About two-thirds of smart speaker users in the U.S. will use an Amazon Echo this year, compared with less than 30 percent who will use a Google Home, according to EMarketer Inc.
Amazon also made improvements to the Echo Show speaker, adding a bigger screen and better sound, qualities that will help it stack up to Google’s high-end device.
Alexa is also busting out of the Echo speakers’ curved plastic casing& —& and will now respond directly to commands on a new $60 AmazonBasics-branded microwave oven. For users who may be flummoxed by proper cook times on regular microwaves, now consumers can simply say “defrost peas” or “cook a baked potato” without having to figure out how long that will take.
Also new is the Alexa Guard, a home security product that can detect breaking glass as well as smoke or carbon dioxide and send an alert to your phone. The Echo Wall Clock means you won’t have to worry about the switch to daylight savings time again, Limp says.
Amazon is also going out to the garage with the Echo Auto, a $50 device that will bring Alexa capabilities to cars, accessing car speaker systems via bluetooth and using the driver’s smartphone to connect to the cloud. Features include voice commands such as asking “Alexa, where is the nearest Starbucks?” or requesting directions via voice