The Echo is a voice-controlled speaker that everyone seems to love these days, but Amazon’s initial idea was to develop an augmented reality device, according to a Bloomberg report Tuesday.
The report reveals that Echo was an “offshoot” of Project C, which was working on augmented reality — the technology that can project 3D hologram images into the real world. Although Amazon has now stopped working on the project, Amazon remains particularly secretive about the nature of the work Project C dealt with.
But the report was able to dig up some patents filed by this team which indicate its early work was on an augmented reality device that would let users control the living room using voice and AR technology. Although it’s unclear what exactly the concept would have entailed, the patent’s descriptions show a device that would have resembled Microsoft’s HoloLens, according to the report:
One of the initial patent applications described a device that would display augmented-reality images that people could interact with; another proposed tracking people’s movements and responding when they clapped, whistled, sang, or spoke. Taken together, Amazon’s patents during this period point toward a vision of a home where virtual displays follow people around as they wander from room to room, offering a range of services in response to voice commands and physical gestures.
These patents were first filed in 2010, before the actual Echo team started working on their new speaker device in 2011. Nonetheless, it shows the complex development process it took to come up with the final design for the Echo.
As Business Insider previously reported, the Echo’s design went through multiple iterations, getting pushed back nearly 4 years until its official release. In fact, one of the early concepts of the Echo resembled a hockey-puck, similar to the Echo Dot that was just released last month, according to one of our sources.
In any case, the Echo’s shaping up to be one of the biggest hardware successes to come out of Amazon. It was featured in Amazon’s first-ever Superbowl ad this year, and some industry people expect it to open up its next billion-dollar opportunity.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.