In preparation for the holiday season, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) has launched a new Amazon branded hardware product called Amazon Echo. Amazon Echo is a wireless Bluetooth speaker that also happens to be voice-activated and allows for almost entirely hands-free operation. The Amazon Echo is aiming to be a mixture between a persistent Bluetooth speaker and a home-hub where the whole family can use it to do a whole host of things.
The interesting part is that Amazon Echo does not merely operate as just a speaker like most wireless bluetooth speakers, Amazon is trying to make it the hub of the home with the voice activated commands and searches. With Amazon Echo, you can ask it questions or play back media from your devices but you can also, obviously, add things to your Amazon cart. After all, it wouldn’t be an Amazon product if you didn’t have a way to buy things on Amazon with it.
And in order to hear you clearly from anywhere in the room and to accurately understand what you’ve said to Amazon Echo, the company has put a 7 microphone array on the Amazon Echo in order to maximize sensitivity and noise cancelling. They call this feature their far-field voice recognition, but the reality is that it is really designed to do some serious noise cancelling and through that you can virtually pickup any voice in the room no matter how bad the noise. Additionally, it uses hot words to wake the device so that it only activates when you want it too, much like Google Now. In fact, this really appears to be yet another product of Amazon’s that is squarely a direct competitor to something that Google is already doing and the company doesn’t seem ashamed or scared of it either.
The best part of the Amazon Echo for Prime users is that if you sign up for an invite right now, you can actually get $99 off the price of the Amazon Echo, which is actually the price of Amazon Prime itself, making buying Amazon Prime and one of these a no-brainer. If you’re thinking about buying the Amazon Echo and don’t already have Amazon Prime, just sign up for Amazon Prime and then buy the Amazon Echo, you will have effectively gotten Amazon Prime for free. One of the most pressing questions, however, is what search engine is Amazon using and whether they’ve developed their own search/knowledge engine and whether they plan to compete with Google in that field as well. After all, voice is now becoming one of the primary methods of search after simple text entry.