Amazon intensified its smart home push, unveiling new consumer gadgets powered by its Alexa voice assistant as it steps up competition in the market with rivals Apple and Google.
The new products, which include Echo Plus, an upgraded version of the current Echo speaker with built-in smart home hub, sees the company not only expand its line-up of gadgets for the home, but further grow the capabilities of its voice assistant.
New Alexa features include Routines, which enable a number of tasks to be combined with a single command (for example turning off lights and television and locking doors with the comand “Alexa good night”); increased support for voice calls and messaging to phones for US users; and improved smart home groups.
In addition to its smart home features, Echo Plus, Amazon’s highest-end new gadget, offers better sound quality than the Echo and is $30 cheaper, at $150.
A new smaller Echo (pictured), priced $100, features “an all new compact design” and delivers “next generation far field performance and improved room filling sound”. Amazon said it uses a new speaker architecture to improve sound performance, and second-generation far-field microphones.
Completing the new line-up is the Echo Spot, a mini speaker which also includes a 2.5-inch colour screen. It allows users to see certain information on the screen, and features a built-in camera for video calling. It is priced at $130.
Away from the home, Amazon announced a partnership with BMW to offer Alexa in BMW and Mini vehicles, starting mid-2018.
Last week it was reported that Amazon is preparing a foray into the wearables market with a pair of smart glasses, designed to integrate directly with Alexa, but yesterday’s event offered no update on those rumours.
Amazon is competing with Apple and Google with its voice assistant, as the latter companies also begin to expand their own voice assistants to new products.
Apple, which operates voice assistant Siri, released two new iPhones earlier this month, with a third, the iPhone X set to launch in November.
This is coupled with the company’s own push into the smart home market with its HomePod speaker, set to be released in December.