Amazon Echo: an innovation or simply a sales stimulant?
Yesterday Amazon announced the launch of its new product: the Amazon Echo. The Echo can be seen as a speaker combined with a Personal Assistant; next to streaming music from the Amazon Cloud (if you are a Prime member) or from a separate device through bluetooth, the Echo offers a range of possibilities. One first has to trigger the device by calling it ‘Alexa’, after which the user can ask it questions such as ‘Who was the 13th President of the United States of America?’ (Millard Fillmore), to ask it to set an alarm for 8:00 tomorrow morning, or to put milk on your shopping list.
The device itself is outfitted with 360-degree speaker, is connected to the internet through WiFi, and has a total of 7 microphones, and uses so-called beam-forming technology to ensure it hears your query. Through this tech, it is even able to filter out background noise such as other people talking and music playing in the room. After the Echo hears the trigger word it processes the voice input through Amazon’s own servers which are based in the cloud. Due to this, the Echo seems to have a self-learning aspect, where it can hone its skills in finding the ‘correct’ answer to a question, or the information you want, on the spot.
The reason behind this launch is evident: in a world where the move is about to made towards every device being smart and towards the ‘Internet of Things’, and especially a world where people are constantly demanding more and more convenience in the products and services they use is a very interesting one for Amazon. Amazon, being one of the biggest retail companies of the world, hopes to establish a solid user base in order to be fully integrated into a whole-home smart system where it would act as the hub. As mentioned above, as of now you can only let Echo add items to your shopping list, but it can be expected that it won’t take long until you can simply say ‘Alexa, order the latest season of Game of Thrones’ and have it on your doorstep the next day. It is not surprising that Echo is currently offer to Amazon Prime members for half of the actual price; Prime members spend much more money than normal customers and such products as Echo will only make it easier to do so.
It is clear that Amazon is attempting to move from one-click shopping to no-click convenience, but one is left wondering; will this really catch on? What about certain privacy issues for instance?