If you've complained about Alexa's inability to answer a question recently, we've got some good news: Alexa's about to get a massive update.
In an event today at Amazon's Seattle headquarters, the company announced a slew of updates to its infamous smart assistant – and a whole load of new devices that go way beyond smart speakers.
The presentation began with David Limp, VP of Alexa at Amazon, announcing a sequel to the Amazon Echo Dot that will ship for the same price – $49.99 (£49.99 / AU$79).
There's also the Amazon Echo Input, which will cost just $34.99 (£34.99), and which removes the speaker from the Dot and focuses on voice input.
To enhance the audio of existing Amazon speakers, there's Amazon Echo Sub – a subwoofer that pairs with Echo speakers, and which leaked yesterday – the Echo Link Amp and Amazon Echo Link, which add Alexa voice control to your existing audio setup.
Read our first impressions of the some of the new Amazon devices:
- Hands-on Amazon Echo Show (2nd gen) review
- Hands-on Amazon Echo Dot 2018 review
- Hands-on Amazon Echo Plus (2nd gen) review
- First look: Amazon Smart Plug
- First look: Amazon Echo Auto
- First look: Amazon Fire TV Recast
- First look: Amazon Echo Wall Clock
The Echo Sub costs $129.99 / £119.99 / AU$199, and will be available in every country Alexa is in. It's available for pre-order now, while the Link Amp and Link will be available for $299 and $199 in the US later this year and some time next year, respectively – we don't yet know about availability for other regions.
To accompany the new music devices, Amazon is updating its Music service to include release notifications that will alert you when a new album drops.
On top of that, there's going to be a new version of the Amazon Echo Plus that will start shipping next month for $149.99 / £139.99 / AU$229.
What about your domestic devices that aren't smart already? For those 'dumb' devices, Amazon has introduced the Smart Plug ($25 / £24.99) that will enable every device in the home to have at least some limited smart home functionality.
To finish the presentation, Amazon announced a new version of the Amazon Echo Show, which will have better sound (thanks to Dolby processing) and two times the display area of the original Echo Show. It will also include web browsers (both Silk and Firefox).
The 2018 Echo Show is $229 (£219.99 / AU$349), and will also have an accompanying stand that will allow you to tilt the device to adjust the viewing and camera angles for an additional £29.99. Both are available for pre-order today and will begin shipping next month.
Amazon Basics Alexa Microwave and Wall Clock
Two of the stranger products Amazon announced today were the Amazon Basics Alexa Microwave and Echo Wall Clock.
The Wall Clock is really an extension of Alexa's widely used timer feature. It will have an LED for timers which can tick down when it’s close to zero, and flashes when a timer is done. That will be $29.99 in the US and ships later this year.
The Amazon Basics Alexa Microwave works with connected devices as well as having a regular interface, and can connect to a nearby Echo. It has Dash replenishment for popcorn, and an Ask Alexa button that you can tap and tell the microwave what’s cooking (e.g. “1 potato”). That's $59.99, shipping later this year. Again we don't know when these devices will be available outside the US.
Alexa is getting two updates, one that focuses on software and one on hardware.
Alexa Hunches will be aware of things you may want to do contextually. If you say, “Alexa Goodnight”, for example, Alexa may warn you that you’ve left the smart lock on your door unlocked, or a smart light on.
Alexa Connect Kit, on the other hand, lets manufacturers add a module with Bluetooth LE and Wi-Fi to appliances of all types. There’s a real-time operating system in there too for updates and contextual awareness.
Amazon Fire TV Recast – an Amazon tuner / DVR
One of the most exciting products announced during the keynote was the Fire TV Recast, an Amazon DVR that includes two tuners and a 500GB hard drive for $229.99. A four-tuner 1TB version also on the way, and the Recast is set to pose a major threat to TiVo in the US.
The Recast lets you send broadcast TV recordings to Fire TV devices, Android mobile and Echo Show, can be placed anywhere in your home for best aerial reception, and can beam content over Wi-Fi. It will add a DVR panel to Fire TV devices when installed, and will integrate with cable streaming services like PlayStation Vue.
Amazon Echo Auto – Alexa for your car
So far, Alexa has invaded the kitchen, the living room and most of the walls on your home. But what about your car? Amazon has a device for that.
It's called the Amazon Echo Auto, and features eight mics inside. The Echo Auto is able to differentiate between road noise, entertainment, voice and more, and has a dash mount so you can use it hands-free (not even Alexa can talk its way out of a ticket).
The Echo Auto is built from a new real-time operating system, booting as soon as your ignition is turned. The device features Bluetooth and Aux connections, with the phone in your car used to route queries to the cloud.
Alexa will also be location-aware, allowing you to pull up to your house and immediately turn smart lights on.
We'll be bringing you more news from Amazon's launch event, plus our hands-on first impressions of some of the new devices, so keep checking back here.