Amazon held a media event in its hometown of Seattle on Thursday morning. Just like nearly every other consumer tech announcement this year, Amazon’s extravaganza was a virtual affair, with company executives speaking over a livestream instead of to a room full of reporters.
The company unleashed a flood of hardware in about an hour, including new Alexa devices, new Echo speakers devices, and some very curious new Ring devices. We've rounded up the highlights for you below.
Meet the New Echo Orbs
First up is a new Echo speaker. Where older Echoes were cylindrical, this new Echo is an orb. The spheroid gray blob is the new home for Alexa, Amazon's ubiquitous voice assistant. It's also home to a bit of bespoke silicon, a new chip Amazon calls the AZ1 Neural Edge processor. With this new chip inside, the Alexa service will be able to recognize speech more quickly, allowing the voice assistant to respond to questions and requests with greater speed. The new (fourth-gen) Echo will cost $100 when it comes out on October 22.
We like the look. Round is good. And the design is oddly reminiscent of the Nexus Q, though the new Echo will likely see far more success than Google's ill-fated streaming player (which was killed before it even shipped).
More Orbs, More Alexa
We see that soft, organic orb shape echoed in the new Echo Dot ($60), which has a clock on its face like one of last year's Dots. The revamped Echo Dot Kids Edition ($60) is, of course, also an orb, and comes with some insanely cute tiger and panda faces. Soon, your kids’ new Tiger Ball Friend will be able to read to them with a new Reading Sidekick feature. Amazon's FreeTime and FreeTime Unlimited subscriptions, which give you a bundle of kids software and services, are now called Amazon Kids and Kids+.
The new Echo 10 ($250) is not so spherical, and doesn't yet have a release date. It uses cameras to slowly pivot to face you on its mushroom stalk, and adds improved video calling features like digital panning, group calling, Zoom, and Amazon Chime.
All of our family members are now home, all the time, forever. So, besides tending to your kids on the new Echos, you’ll also be able to install Care Hub to check on your elderly relatives. Improved video calling features include pivoting to face you as you walk around, digital panning, group calling, Zoom, and Amazon Chime. You can also tell Alexa to delete everything you said, or tell Guard Plus that you’re away, so it can scan for intruders. Maybe they forgot about the part where we never leave our houses anymore.
An Updated Wi-Fi Router
Amazon snapped up the mesh-router company Eero last year and quickly released a new, cheaper version of the Eero router system. Today Amazon is releasing new models notable primarily for the new Wi-Fi 6 support. Wi-Fi 6 improves the speed and reliability of your home network, but it does require new hardware to take advantage.
The new Eero 6 is $129 and comes out November 2. A two-piece Eero 6 system is $199, and the three-piece system is $279. The Eero Pro 6 offers better performance thanks to its tri-band antenna system, which allows more simultaneous connections (the Pro model also supports the 5-GHz Wi-Fi band, which can add stability to connections, especially in urban areas). The Eero Pro 6 is $229, a two pack is $399, and the mansion-spanning three pack is $599.
A Ring Car Alarm
Ring is one of Amazon’s best selling product lines, and also one of the most controversial, given Amazon’s partnerships with hundreds of police departments around the US. But that didn’t stop Amazon from launching at least four new Ring products today, three of which are automotive products.
The number one most requested device has been a security product for cars, according to Ring president Leila Rouhi. So in early 2021 the company will ship a Ring Car Alarm, for $60, that plugs into your car’s OBD port and works with Alexa to trigger sirens and lights when something’s amiss with your car; a $200 car cam that has dual-facing HD cameras and will monitor for activity whether your car is parked or in motion; and a software API, Ring Car Connect, that can be integrated into cars with existing cameras for $200. To start, though, the only vehicles that will support this are Tesla models S, 3, X, Y. (At those cars' prices, what’s an extra $200?)
And a Security Drone That Flies Around Your House
Today’s biggest “nope” award goes to another Ring product: The new Ring Always Home Cam. It is called that because we are … always home these days? Or because the drone itself will always be in your home? Or because our dystopian future involves an ever-present techno-overlord that will want to ensure we’re always under his eye? The possibilities are endless with this thing; one can only wish to have been a fly on the wall when it was originally pitched.
For $249, this flying drone for inside your home (did we mention it’s for inside your home?) can be yours. But don’t worry, Amazon assures us; it’s built with “privacy in mind.” It only records when it’s flying around your home, and it’s loud enough so that you know it’s nearby. Otherwise it sits there quietly on its dock, the camera deactivated. Wait for its command to just … take flight and record inside your home again.
Want to Stream Your Games?
Amazon is joining the increasingly crowded field of cloud game streaming services with Luna. It leverages Amazon Web Services’ infrastructure to stream video games to your devices, like playing a movie over Netflix. You’ll need a superfast and stable internet connection to use it. The upside? You don’t need to buy an expensive console or make sure you have enough storage space to download games.
Naturally, Luna is integrated with Amazon-owned Twitch, making streams easy to access, and you'll play using a Luna controller—though there’s support for mouse and keyboard, as well as Xbox One and PS4 controllers. The $50 controller looks a lot like Nintendo’s Pro controller for the Switch and is powered by “Cloud Direct” tech, which means it connects to Amazon’s game servers rather than relying on Bluetooth, supposedly reducing lag (how quickly it responds to your button presses). Of course, it wouldn’t be an Amazon product without Alexa built right in.
There’s no firm launch date yet, but you can request an invitation for early access, which costs $6 per month. Amazon confusingly calls it a “Luna+” channel, which is separate from the service itself, and it lets you play more than 100 titles like Control, A Plague Tale: Innocence, and Resident Evil 7. There will also be a Ubisoft “channel” in Luna that lets you play games like the upcoming Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla on the same day as its release. Other game publisher channels will launch later.
Luna supports Fire TV, PC, Mac, iPhone, and iPad at launch (the latter two are accessible through web apps), and an Android app is coming later. It’s not Amazon’s first dip into gaming. Outside of Twitch, Amazon has its own game studio, and has released one already called Crucible. Still, it will have to hope these integrations will help it stand out from others like Google Stadia, Microsoft’s new cloud gaming, PlayStation Now, Nvidia’s GeForce Now, and Shadow.
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