AMAZON ECHO’S CUTEST ALEXA DEVICE NOW AVAILABLE
Amazon’s Echo devices have been a global success. However, along with Google Home and the first real wave of voice control devices, the question of privacy has been raised with ‘always listening’ connected devices in people’s homes.
Controversially the new Echo Spot from Amazon brings a net-connected camera to your bedside, which further raises concerns for the techno-paranoid. We’re techno-addicted of course, so for us, it’s full steam ahead!
To quote Tom Taylor, Senior Vice President of Amazon’s Alexa Division:
Echo Spot combines the small design of Echo Dot, the display of Echo Show (larger screen device not sold in Australia) and the features you love about Alexa into an all-new, stylish and compact device,
On sale this week at A$199 the cute ball-shaped device does everything an Echo does, with the addition of a screen and camera. It looks like a dumb alarm clock but is far smarter than that, able to turn lights on and off, play a video, order a taxi, get the weather, check the calendar and much more. You will, of course, need an Amazon account to make it work.
Updated Alexa voice tech
Improving on the sometimes-deaf original Echo devices, the Spot features second generation far-field technology with four microphones, acoustic beam-forming technology, and enhanced noise cancellation so it can hear from across the room, even while music is playing.
If you have more than one Echo, Alexa responds intelligently from the Echo you’re closest to. Smart stuff, but we hope it understands “Alexa STFU!”
Front-facing camera and round shaped touchscreen
A tiny round 2.5-inch 480×480px LCD touchscreen display gives Spot some new tricks. For instance, requesting news from the BBC will launch a video of news footage, and reportedly the screen is crisp enough to read headlines and message without squinting.
Live-stream video calling works Spot to Spot, reverting to voice calls with older Echos. So if you can afford a house full of Spots you can check the kitchen to ask when dinner will be ready or harass the kids to see how homework is going. They’ll probably have dropped a T-Shirt over the camera though.
It even works with smart home cameras, so an office-based Echo Spot could be used to check up on a live security feed in your house.
Probably more useful, give an Echo Spot to your aged parents and check on your will by saying “Alexa, call Dad”, and if the world ends up with Spots by every bed, I bet tech-savvy sex workers will scoop them up at a great rate. “Alexa call Lonely Gal.”
Built-in speaker, Bluetooth and audio-out
The built-in 2W speaker is OK for background music and conversation, but like all Echos, so far it's pretty mediocre for music.
Luckily Spot can directly connect to powered speakers or Hi-Fi systems via Bluetooth or the 3.5mm stereo socket. Voice control is enabled for Amazon Music, Prime Music, Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and more, although all these sources for now at least, are still streaming in "compressed" formats. Usefully you can stream Apple Music or Tidal from any phone to the Spot.
With the multi-room music option, you can play synchronised music across all nearby Echo devices - not loud enough to be party central but useful nevertheless. An added video only bonus is that during music playback, the Spot screen can display track info and lyrics which is a nice feature.
SMART HOME SPOT
Voice control your life
Like all Echo devices, the Spot is programmable with a wide range of “Alexa Skills”. It will interface with all sorts of smart devices from Ring, Arlo, Philips Hue, LIFX, Telstra Smart Home, TP-Link, Harmony etc.
So just say ‘Echo” and turn on the lights, view camera feeds, control the temperature, lock your doors when you’re heading to bed, and much more. Provided of course you have spent a fortune on compatible devices.
GadgetNET says: If you already have an Amazon household, the Spot is a no-brainer. If not? Then it’s a great place to start getting connected. We like it a lot and will be buying a pair to talk to the aged parents.
For more information click here.
Rob Follis has been writing about tech on and off for over 40 years, is a designer, photographer, information omnivore, gadget-head, Hi-Fi afficionado, owner of far far too many things and sadly an unsuccessful app developer. A born & bred Londoner now happily living in Melbourne. Email Rob.
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