Amazon's Echo Show gives Alexa a face


— 10:00 AM on May 10, 2017

We already have Dash Buttons, Echo, Echo Dot, and the Echo Look. The Amazon-ification of the contemporary household isn't over yet, though. The company's repertoire of internet-connected smart devices has a new member: the Echo Show, a device that combines the functionality of Amazon's existing Echo products with a 7" touchscreen.

People familiar with the Echo and Echo Dot will have a good idea of the basic functionality in the Echo Show: playing music, reading weather forecasts, making hands-free calls, and maintaining a calendar and shopping list, among other things. The Echo Show's screen adds to its functionality in ways both expected and novel. For example, it can show a week's worth of events on a user's calendar rather than reading off the schedule for the day, or show YouTube cooking tutorials rather than simply adding ingredients to a shopping list.

One feature that's sure to attract some attention is video calling. With Echo Show, users can make hands-free video calls to people who also own an Echo Show, or friends and family with the Alexa app installed on their tablet or smartphone. A new feature called "Drop In" not only allows users to call others, but to initiate a voice call without waiting for approval from the other party. Presumably, one can only "drop in" with pre-approved people or devices. However initiated, calls and messages made through Alexa are free.

Amazon says the Echo Show can interact with other smart home devices. It can integrate with a security camera, for example, to display who's knocking at the front door. It can adjust the household thermostat, or dim the lights. It could also serve as a baby monitor, offering an on-demand video feed into the nursery.

The device itself has a 7.4" x 7.4" (18.7 cm x 18.7 cm) square front panel with a display and a speaker grille, and stands on a trapezoidal base that's 3.5" (9 cm) deep. To pick up its owner's voice, the Echo Show has an eight-microphone array with beamforming, and to respond back, the device uses two speakers with Dolby processing.

Amazon is currently accepting pre-orders for the device for $230. To sweeten the deal, and perhaps to encourage users to buy one for mom as well, Amazon will reduce the cost of the a second Echo Show by $100 for users who opt to buy two at a time. The devices will be released on June 28.

Tip: You can use the A/Z keys to walk threads.
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