Amazon Echo is designed around your voice. It's always on—just ask for information, music, news, weather, and more. Echo begins working as soon as it hears you say the wake word, "Alexa." It's also an expertly-tuned speaker that can fill any room with immersive sound.
Very interesting move from Amazon. This will be their fifth major consumer hardware product category, and one that certainly makes the future seem exciting.
Although it has a bit of an informercial vibe, Amazon's video does a nice job explaining the product, and the use cases it might have:
The response time demonstrated in the device's promotional video is impressive. The biggest user-facing problem with systems like this is the lag time between when you say your ‘key phrase’ and when the device begins listening for speech that it can interpret as some kind of input.
In the video, Amazon makes it seem as if this “waiting” time is not needed with the Echo. If this is the in fact the case, it will be a huge breakthrough for speech recognition consumer electronics products.
It may have been a good idea to set the default ‘wake word’ (as Amazon calls it) ‘Echo’, and not ‘Alexa’ (the apparent ‘wake word’ that the device ships with as default). Two different names just seems unnecessarily confusing.
I can’t help but wonder if Apple is working on a device like this. Would be a perfect fit for a future Home Kit-enabled, Cable-box-replacing, always-on Apple TV.