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Amazon's New Device is an Always-on Personal Assistant

Tim Maytom

amazon echoAmazon has unveiled a new device, the Echo, an internet-connected speaker and microphone that can instantly connect users to music, news and information using voice commands.

Currently, the Echo is only available 'by invitation only', and is selling at $200 (£126), or $100 to Amazon Prime members, and Amazon have not revealed when it is likely to be freely available to consumers.

The Echo uses voice recognition that can hear users from across the room, woken by the word "Alexa", although this may be customisable. Once woken, it can provide information, set alarms, add items to to-do and shopping lists, and play music on command.

The device is connected to Amazon Web Services, and will add more functions over time, as well as adapting to users' speech patterns, vocabulary and personal preferences. Amazon have also released a free companion app for the device on Fire OS and Android that enables owners to manage alarms, music, shopping lists and more when outside the Echo's listening range.

As with the Fire Phone, the most obvious benefit of the Echo is that it can transform one-click shopping into 'no-click shopping'. While initially it appears that items can only be added to shopping lists via the Echo, and require confirmation via Amazon's website or app, it is easy to imagine that this will eventually be streamlined to allow items to be purchased straight from the Echo.

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