Amazon recently introduced some 2nd generation Echo's and Dots for their Alexa voice control. That wasn't particularly interesting, mostly these things are about cost savings and production - However at the same time the partnering software update contained something that was of real interest.
Amazon call them routines, it's a simple way to program your Alexa (and Smart Home) to respond to either pre-ordained voice commands or timed routines. So you can say for example "Alexa Bed time" and dim all your lights, lock your doors, turn off Tv's and Music etc... Or you can have Alexa turn on/off a list of connected devices at certain times of the day, so turn your lights on in the evening etc...
At the same time they will be rolling out the placement of Echo's, Dot's and Show's into smart home groups, so you can place them inside the room grouping. This will enable you to walk in and say Alexa turn off the lights and Alexa understands what room you are in. Brilliant, no more "Alexa turn off the bedroom lights" just "Alexa turn off lights" - sounds like a tiny change but trust me it gets tiresome adding the bedroom (or forgetting) bit.
Here's Amazons press release.
"Introducing the Next Generation of Echo: the All-New Amazon Echo and Echo Plus
All-new Echo brings all the features you love about Alexa, now with a new design, improved sound with Dolby processing, and a lower price—just $99.99
Echo Plus has a built-in smart home hub to easily connect your smart devices—set up and start controlling lights, locks, and more in minutes—just $149.99, with a Philips Hue smart lightbulb included while supplies last
Routines let you control multiple devices and actions with a single voice command—for example, simply say, “Alexa, good morning,” and Alexa will turn on the lights, start your coffee pot, and read the day’s forecast
Now, call anyone with Alexa—new calling feature offers free outbound calling from Echo devices, plus the all-new Echo Connect brings the convenience of hands-free inbound and outbound calling to your home phone
Three years ago, Amazon introduced Echo and Alexa, offering a new way to interact with technology using just your voice. Today, Amazon introduced the next generation of Echo: the all-new Echo with a new design and improved sound for just $99.99, and Echo Plus with a built-in smart home hub for just $149.99.
“Alexa, turn on the kitchen overhead lamp.”
“Three years ago we introduced the first Echo, powered by Alexa, with a goal to fundamentally simplify and improve the way customers interact with their homes,” said Tom Taylor, Senior Vice President, Amazon Alexa. “Today, Alexa can make calls, play music in every room, turn on your lights, and even order you a pizza. But it’s still day one, and today we’re making Echo and Alexa even better. The all-new Echo and Echo Plus deliver better sound, all new far-field technology, and new features we think customers will love.”
With an all-new compact design, Echo fits easily into any room in your home while delivering next generation far-field performance and improved room-filling sound. Pick from a variety of shell colors and finishes to fit into your home’s décor—choices include charcoal, sandstone, heather gray, oak veneer, walnut veneer, and silver.
Echo combines an all-new speaker architecture, a dedicated tweeter, a 2.5” down-firing woofer, and Dolby processing to deliver crisp vocals and dynamic bass throughout the room—all in a smaller design and at an even more affordable price. Alexa can play music from leading services like Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and more.
Second generation far-field technology
The new Echo uses Amazon’s second generation far-field technology, which features better wake word processing, improved beamforming technology, and enhanced noise cancellation. The Echo far-field technology works to detect the wake word from across the room even in the noisiest parts of your home.
Set up your smart home in minutes
With its built-in smart home hub, Echo Plus makes connecting to compatible smart home devices easy. Just say, “Alexa, discover my devices,” and Echo Plus will automatically discover and set up compatible lights, locks, plugs, switches, and more without the need for additional hubs or apps. This simple set-up works with a variety of ZigBee products from leading brands such as Philips Hue, GE, Kwikset, and more. To help get your smart home started, Amazon customers will receive a Philips Hue smart lightbulb with the purchase of an Echo Plus while supplies last.
More powerful audio and better performance
Echo Plus has enhanced 360-degree omni-directional audio, with Dolby processing, to provide deeper bass and crisper high notes for better audio clarity. You can play music from Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and more. With Amazon Music, you can search for music by lyrics, time-period, or let Alexa pick the music for you. Like the new Echo, Echo Plus features second generation far-field technology for even better performance.
All new Alexa features
Routines allow you to automate a series of customizable actions using a single voice command of your choice. For example, say, “Alexa, good night,” and Alexa will turn off the lights, lock the door, and turn off the TV. You can also create Routines based on the time of day – for example, you can create a Routine that has Alexa turn on the kitchen lights, start the coffee maker, and read the weather forecast at 6 a.m. every weekday and at 9 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday.
Routines are compatible with popular Works with Amazon Alexa lights, plugs, switches, and door locks from leading brands like TP Link, Philips Hue, Wemo, and August, and will be available for all Alexa devices including the all-new Echo, the previous generation Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, and Echo Plus starting next month.
Improved smart home groups
You no longer need to remember the specific name of a smart device or group of smart devices to control them. Now you can place your Echo and smart devices into smart home groups, which enables Alexa to act intelligently on your request, making your interactions with your smart home more natural and effortless. For example, when you walk into the kitchen, you can now say to your Echo “Alexa, turn on the lights” rather than “Alexa, turn on the kitchen overhead lamp.”
This feature will be available on the all-new Echo, the previous generation Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, and Echo Plus starting next month.
Call anyone with Alexa
Four months ago, Amazon introduced Alexa calling and messaging, and millions of customers have started using the feature. Now, Amazon is expanding this feature to include support for free outbound calling to phone numbers within the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Just say “Alexa, call Mary’s mobile,” and Alexa will call Mary’s mobile phone from your smartphone’s contact list. Alexa can also dial phone numbers that you speak to her so that you can reach people or businesses that aren’t in your contacts. Calls to 911 are not supported. This feature is available for all Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show customers starting today in the US.
Amazon also introduced Echo Connect, a new Alexa accessory that turns your Echo into a high quality, hands-free speakerphone for your home phone line. Echo Connect works with your existing home phone service – either landline or VoIP. Without touching a single button, ask Alexa to call anybody from your contact list – when you call, they will see your home phone number as the caller ID. When someone you know calls your home phone, Alexa will announce their name from your contacts list—just ask Alexa to answer to start the conversation.
Echo Connect is easy to set up—simply connect it to your home Wi-Fi network and home phone jack or VoIP adapter, and use the Alexa app on your mobile phone to set up Echo Connect. Echo Connect is just $34.99 and will be available later this year.
Echo Buttons introduce new gaming experience with Alexa
Echo Buttons are new devices that deliver ways for customers to play games with friends and family using Alexa. The buttons illuminate and can be pressed to trigger a variety of multiplayer and interactive game experiences. There will be a number of new Echo Button-compatible skills available this holiday season including Sounds Fun with Mike Epps, Buzzer Beater Basketball Trivia with Karl-Anthony Towns, Fourth Down Football Trivia with Philip Rivers, Full Count Baseball Trivia with Buster Posey from Ground Control, as well as Beat the Intro from Musicplode. Echo Buttons will come in a two-pack, priced at $19.99, and will arrive in time for the holidays in the US, UK, and Germany. Echo Buttons are the first of many Alexa Gadgets, a new collection of accessories that enable fun and playful Alexa experiences. Sign up at https://www.amazon.com/AlexaGadgets to receive notifications and updates when Echo Buttons are available for purchase.
Now over 25,000 Alexa skills and new multi-player games
Tens of thousands of developers are building skills for Alexa using the Alexa Skills Kit, and today there are over 25,000 third party skills available for Alexa. Skills add even more capabilities like ordering a pizza, requesting a ride, tracking your fitness, controlling your TV, and more.
Pricing and Availability
The all-new Echo is just $99.99. It is available for pre-order starting today at www.amazon.com/echo and will start shipping next month.
Echo Plus is just $149.99. It is available for pre-order starting today at www.amazon.com/echoplus and will start shipping next month. To help get your smart home started, Amazon customers will receive Philips Hue smart lightbulb with every purchase of an Echo Plus while supplies last.
Echo Connect is just $34.99 and will be available later this year. Learn more about Echo Connect at www.amazon.com/echoconnect .
Amazon also today introduced the all-new Echo Spot which features a stylish, compact design with a screen so Alexa can show you things for just $129.99; and the all-new Amazon Fire TV with 4K and HDR for just $69.99.
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