Amazon devices chief Dave Limp plowed through 70 new products or features in about as many minutes during a product launch presentation Thursday, focused on broadening the territory available to the company’s Alexa voice software.
Here are five standouts making their way into Amazon’s growing range of gadgets and software:
Amazon had already been working to get Alexa into new car models, striking deals with the likes of Toyota, BMW and Ford. But that leaves hundreds of millions of existing vehicles without the ability to communicate with Alexa. So Amazon is taking a stab at extending Alexa’s reach with Echo Auto, an 8-microphone, dashboard-mounted array that connects to a car speaker system through a headphone jack or Bluetooth. The device, available to customers by invitation only in its early stages, will be launched at a date to be announced, for $50.
Among the range of new features added to Alexa is one designed to turn the Echo’s microphones into a rudimentary home security system. Say “Alexa, I’m leaving,” and the software listens for sounds like shattering glass or smoke alarms, and can send you a notification if it detects something might be wrong. “We did break a lot of glass,” Rohit Prasad, a vice president and Alexa’s Chief Scientist, joked of the testing that made that possible. If linked to compatible light fixtures, the software can also turn on a randomized set of lights in a house to make it appear occupied at night. It can also communicate with home security system providers, starting with ADT.
Amazon Basics Microwave
Amazon has built a microwave. The device, along with a wall clock, stood out as the most old-school technologies the company put on display Thursday. Amazon is not, however, trying to disrupt the food reheating or timekeeping space. Instead, the devices are something of a showcase of what Alexa can do when placed in charge of home appliances through a set of tools Amazon is making available to other companies. The AmazonBasics branded microwave costs $60, and will ship sometime later this year. So will the clock, which sells for $30.
Fire TV Recast
Amazon’s new DVR can record over-the-air TV broadcasts and stream them to Fire TV devices, Echo Shows, tablets and smartphones. A model that can record two channels simultaneously, and store about 75 hours of programming, costs $230. A four-channel model with hard-drive space for about 150 hours starts at $280. The device is available for pre-order, and will ship Nov. 14.
New Echo devices tend to come into the world in sleek black plastic. As they grow up, they get new sets of clothes. So it is with the Echo Dot, Amazon’s best-selling model of Echo device, which looks a bit rounder and can be customized with one of three fabric covers, in black, gray and sandstone. The company, as part of its push for the audio aficionado, also says it offers upgraded sound quality and higher volume. It costs the same $50 as the prior model, and ships in October.