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Amazon makes Echo AI voice device widely available


Seattle – is releasing its Echo voice-activated artificial intelligence device for general availability in July, and taking consumer orders now. Echo was made available on an invitation basis to customers who wanted to help shape the device in November 2014.

Echo is designed around the consumer’s voice and is hands-free and always on. Customers can ask for information, music, news, traffic, weather, and more and get results instantly. Echo uses far-field voice recognition with an array of seven microphones to clearly hear consumers around the room. Advanced beam-forming technology combines the signals from the individual microphones to suppress noise, reverberation, and competing speech. Echo’s advanced audio design includes dual downward-firing speakers that produce 360-degree, omni-directional, room-filling audio.

Echo is built on a cloud-based artificial intelligence platform called Alexa, which leverages Amazon Web Services and learns as it is used. At launch, Echo introduced hands-free voice control for music (Amazon Music, Prime Music, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn), information from Wikipedia and the Web, weather, timers and alarms, news, and shopping/to-do lists. New capabilities added since November include:

• Connected home: With integration of Belkin WeMo and Philips Hue products, consumers can use Echo to remotely turn on appliances or dim light bulbs.

• Pandora: Consumers can have access to Pandora’s library of more than one million tracks by asking Alexa for a station by genre, artist, or song. Once music is playing, consumers can pause and skip tracks using voice commands, and tell Alexa to give a track a thumbs up or thumbs down to train the station to their taste.

• Audible: Consumers can listen to audiobooks from Audible with Echo. Echo also supports Whispersync for Voice, which allows seamless switching between reading and listening. Users can start reading on Kindle, and pick up on Echo right where you left off.

• Google Calendar: Users can have access to Google calendar events with Echo voice controls.

• If This Then That (IFTTT): Consumers can create IFTTT recipes using Echo’s shopping and to-do lists. IFTTT is a service that connects devices, apps, and websites with rules called “recipes.”

• Re-order Prime-eligible products: Amazon Prime members can ask Echo to place an order for them. Echo uses order history and can order the Prime-eligible item using default payment and shipping settings. If Echo can’t find the requested item in the order history, it may suggest an item for approval using Amazon’s Choice, which picks highly-rated, well-priced, Prime-eligible products.

In addition, developers have been using a private beta of a free software developer kit (SDK) to build new capabilities and skills for Alexa, which will start rolling out later this year.

“The customer response to Amazon Echo has been incredibly positive, and we’ve been working hard to build more as quickly as possible,” said Greg Hart, VP, Amazon Echo. “We’re excited to get Echo into the hands of even more customers and continue to invent new features and. We are grateful to our early customers for their incredible engagement and for providing us with invaluable feedback to help shape Echo as it evolves—with their help, we’ve been able to add features like Audible, Pandora, home automation, sports scores, calendar, and more,” s experiences.”

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