AMAZON has announced a new product designed to sit like a speaker in your house, but that also offers similar internet-connected abilities to Siri, Apple's personal digital assistant.
Echo, which is currently on sale by invitation only in the US for $199 ($99 for Amazon Prime Customers), responds to a variety of vocal commands, with users able to request news updates, set alarms, play music and have simple questions (dates and figures mainly) answered via information from Wikipedia.
Although Amazon is launching the product as a piece of hardware, the key is the company's new digital assistant, apparently nicknamed 'Alexa'.
Alexa won't just live in Echo, but will also be available to access via apps on desktop computers, Android and iOS, letting user "easily manage [their] alarms, music, shopping lists, and more".
Echo itself connects to a home's Wi-Fi and has a 360-degree array of both microphones and speakers, with a 2.5-inch woofer that Amazon claims can "fill any room with immersive sound".
It seems like a canny move from Amazon. Although we've gotten used to the idea of 'personal assistants' on mobiles, they're often most useful in environments when we're happy to shout aloud at our phones.
If Amazon can make 'Alexa' the go to helper in the kitchen and living room, then users won't just use voice commands to check the news and play music - they'll probably do some shopping too.