Gears & Gadgets

Amazon unleashes a bunch of new Echo devices, including glasses and a ring

At an event in Seattle today, Amazon announced a slew of new Echo devices that build on the company’s existing smart speakers. Of note is the new Echo Studio, a $ 199 smart speaker that supports 3D audio and Dolby Atmos sound.

Previous rumors indicated that Amazon, which recently started supporting lossless audio on its music streaming service, would release a speaker that could better play such music. The Echo Studio is that device—it looks like a beefier version of the original Echo and is strikingly similar to Apple’s Homepod. It will fill a room with sound using its left, right, and top mid-range speakers, directional tweeter, and 5.25-inch bass driver and accompanying bass port. It will also adjust to its space by calibrating with its built-in microphones.

At $ 199, the Echo Studio could be an alternative to the Sonos One speaker. It’s also not a coincidence that the Studio costs $ 100 less than both Apple’s Homepod and the Google Home Max—Amazon is attempting to position the Studio as a more affordable option.

Amazon also jumped into the mobile audio space with its new $ 129 Echo Buds, a pair of truly wireless earbuds with Alexa built in. They look similar to Jabra’s style of truly wireless earbuds, and unlike Apple’s AirPods, they don’t have sticks hanging down from the main bud case. Amazon worked with Bose to bring the audio company’s noise reduction to the Echo Buds, too; you can tap the side of one bud to toggle noise reduction.

The Echo Buds should get five hours of listening life and up to 20 hours of battery life with their charging case. While that’s pretty standard for wireless earbuds, the Echo Buds’ $ 129 price is not—they are much cheaper than competing devices from Sony, Sennheiser, Jaybird, and Jabra. They are even slightly cheaper than Apple’s AirPods, which could make them more attractive to budget-conscious users.

Speakers, wall accessories, and… glasses?

In addition to the Echo Studio and Echo Buds, Amazon announced an updated $ 99 Echo that now has the Echo Plus’ speaker hardware. That should make it a much better music device than it was before. The Echo also got a visual update, taking on a squatter shape that’s similar to the Echo Studio.

The Echo family also got a new $ 59 Echo Dot, the tiniest version of Amazon’s original smart speaker. The only thing that has changed in this new model is that it has an embedded LED clock behind the speaker’s fabric wrapping. This device appears to be for those who didn’t want to spend $ 119 on an Echo Spot (which, notably, is only available from third-party sellers on Amazon now) but want a smart speaker that shows the time at a glance. The $ 49 LED-less Echo Dot will still be available.

On the screen side of things, Amazon announced the new $ 129 Echo Show 8, an 8-inch version of the 10-inch Echo Show. Echo Shows are now available in 5-, 8-, and 10-inch sizes, which raises a question: do users want so many options for an Echo speaker with a display? Amazon is betting they do, and the company will be introducing new screen-dedicated features to make those devices even more enticing. For example, Amazon partnered with the Food Network and Discovery to let users with display-toting Echo devices watch live and on-demand episodes of Food Network TV shows. They can ask Alexa to save recipes they like, and they can take on-demand cooking classes via their devices’ screens.

Aside from the $ 249 Amazon Smart Oven (a microwave, convection oven, air fryer, and food warmer combo that can be controlled with enabled devices), the rest of Amazon’s new devices are quite small. Potentially the most convenient is the $ 25 Echo Flex, a small square adapter that plugs into a wall socket. Its tiny speaker and microphone let you speak to Alexa almost anywhere in your home, even if you don’t have a dedicated Echo speaker in every room. The Flex also houses a USB port for charging purposes—it may take up one wall socket, but it doesn’t totally prevent you from using that source of power.

The Flex will also support motion accessories, the first available being a motion sensor and a nightlight. Third-party developers can build accessories for the Flex using its new API, so we expect to see more debut in the future.

Amazon closed the event by revealing two off-the-wall Alexa devices: eyeglass frames and a ring. The Echo Frames start at $ 179 and support regular or prescription lenses. Naturally, they support Alexa as well—while they don’t have a display or a camera, they do have an Alexa-enabled speaker and microphone. Alexa’s answers will come through a speaker that’s pointed towards you, so privacy is better than you’d expect but certainly not absolute. Amazon designed the frames so you can disable the microphone at any time, and you can choose only select “VIP” alerts to come through the speakers when you don’t want to be bothered by all of your smart alerts.

The $ 129 Echo Loop is an oddly shaped ring that has a similar purpose as the Echo Frames, making it easier to access Alexa wherever you are. The titanium piece of jewelry’s one button activates Alexa. The haptic engine in the ring vibrates to let you know you’ve actually pressed the button, and Alexa will deliver answers via the ring’s tiny speaker.

Both the Echo Frames and the Echo Loop are currently available by invitation only. All of the rest of Amazon’s newest devices will become available over the next few weeks and months, and all should be fully available for the holiday shopping season.

Listing image by Amazon

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Tech – Ars Technica

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