January 13, 2016
The ecommerce giant Amazon is making double the efforts on voice-controlled hardware, which is part of the broader ambition of the Seattle retailer to overtake its competitors by introducing digital assistants that can become a part of everyday life. In the next few weeks, Amazon is going to release a small and portable version of its tabletop Echo speaker that’s voice-activated. The device had first been introduced in November 2014 and had surprisingly turned out to be a success. According to people familiar with the matter, Amazon is now hoping to build off this success with this portable version.
It was also disclosed by the people that the new device goes by the code name of ‘Fox’. The Echo speaker is the same size as that of a Pringles can and has to be plugged into an outlet. Once this is done, you can use the device for getting answers to questions, playing music, creating shopping lists and even turning connecting lights on and off as per your commands. The new portable version of the Echo speaker is expected to be sold at a lower price than the original Echo device that was priced at $180 and the people said that this was to attract more buyers to the product.
No comment was made by an Amazon spokeswoman when questioned about the matter. The Echo speaker had started as nothing more than a funky experiment for collecting data about consumer behavior and testing voice activation. However, it has now turned out to be a lucrative strategy with a lot of potential that can keep people coming back to the e-commerce giant’s website. Initially, a large number of consumers and critics were unsure of what to do with the Echo and the Alexa software of the device had even unsettled some because it is always listening for its name.
Nonetheless, in most cases, positive reviews have been directed towards Amazon for the unique creation as Echo has turned out to be a good personal assistant and boasts very powerful microphones that have the ability of hearing a voice in another room. Sales figures are not released by Amazon, but on the company’s own websites, the Echo speakers have received about 30,000 reviews that average about 4.5 out of 5 stars. This is a huge improvement as opposed to Amazon’s Fire phone that had been rated one star by about 43 percent of the reviewers on the company’s website.
The Echo’s features have been bulked up by Amazon as it has added weather and traffic reports as well as home automation, streaming music services and Yelp restaurant recommendations. The company is also working on installing the Alexa software in other devices partly because of a $100 million fund as encouragement to hardware makers for continuing their innovation. For instance, a partnership had been announced by Amazon last week with Ford Motor Co. for integrating the Alexa software in their vehicles for several functions such as opening the garage doors by voice command.
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