- Amazon made a slew of announcements on Thursday, including a completely redesigned Echo lineup.
- Among the biggest reveals was the debut of Amazon Luna, a game-streaming service meant to go head-to-head with similar services from Google and Microsoft.
- Amazon’s Ring unveiled a new miniature drone that can surveil your home when you’re away and its first devices for the car.
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Amazon held its usual fall product-launch event on Thursday, where it introduced major updates across its Echo, Alexa, Fire TV, and Ring product lineups. It also unveiled its long-rumoured cloud-gaming service, Luna, which will work across all platforms when it launches.
Taken together, the announcements are a revamp and expansion of Amazon’s most popular hardware and software products. The Echo, for example, has gotten a completely new look that represents the speaker’s biggest design overhaul since its 2014 debut. Amazon is also staking out a bigger space for itself in the gaming industry as it seeks to compete with rivals like Google and Microsoft in the cloud-gaming space.
Here’s a closer look at the biggest announcements Amazon made on Thursday.
Luna, Amazon’s new cloud-gaming service
Amazon took the wraps off Luna on Thursday, marking its long-expected entrance into the cloud-gaming space. Amazon is letting the public sign up to request early access immediately. The service will be available on iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, and Fire TV.
The service will encompass multiple channels, including a Ubisoft channel and a Luna Plus channel, the latter of which is available for $US5.99 per month during the early access period. Amazon also designed its own controller for Luna that connects to the cloud, rather than your device, which the company says should prevent latency and pairing issues.
A completely redesigned Echo lineup
No more cylinder- or hockey-puck-shaped speakers from Amazon. The company introduced a completely redesigned Echo lineup that features a uniform spherical aesthetic across its main Echo and Echo Dot devices.
The new Echo will also inherit some features from the pricier Echo Plus, such as its built-in smart-home hub. The new Echo will start at $US100, while the redesigned Dot begins at $US50 and the Dot with a digital-clock display starts at $US60.
New Ring devices for the car, including a car camera that can record interactions with the police
Amazon also announced the $US200 Ring Car Cam, a security camera for the road that can keep an eye on your car whether its parked or in transit.
The camera comes with a feature called Traffic Stop, which enables it to record an interaction with police and alert designated contacts after the user says “Alexa, I’m being pulled over.” The device can also surveil your car while it’s parked to check for attempted break-ins or other unusual activity.
The camera can also request help from first responders when necessary while driving.
The launch comes after Ring’s partnerships with hundreds of police departments across the US have drawn scrutiny from civil-liberties activists, privacy advocates, and lawmakers.
Ring’s new mini drone, which can fly around the home to keep an eye on it when you’re away
The Ring Always Home Cam is designed to do what its name implies: make it feel like you’re always at home by keeping tabs on your house while you’re away.
The Always Home Cam is essentially a tiny drone that can autonomously fly around the house, enabling it to monitor multiple areas. Users must set a predetermined path for the Always Home Cam to follow. So if you wanted it to check whether you left the stove on, for example, you’d have to create a path to the kitchen.
The device sits on a charging base that blocks its camera when not in use.
A new Echo Show with a screen that can follow you
It’s not just the standard Echo lineup that received an upgrade on Thursday. Amazon is also refreshing the Echo Show with a new 10-inch model that has a rotating screen and can follow you around.
When you’re on a video call, for example, the Echo Show can move so that its 13-megapixel camera can keep you in frame. If you have Amazon’s Alexa Guard feature turned on while in Away mode, the Echo Show can also pan around the room to look for disruptions.
The new Show costs $US250 and starts shipping later this year.
Updates that make Alexa better at conversation
Amazon also unveiled some new features that make Alexa better at holding a natural conversation.
In a demo, the company showcased a capability it calls “natural turn taking,” which allows Alexa to chime in to a conversation when summoned. During one example, Amazon showed how Alexa could offer up pizza specials from your favourite place after you tell it you want to order pizza.
The company also announced a new feature that enables Alexa to ask for clarifying information when the assistant isn’t sure what the user is referring to in a request.
New Fire TV Stick devices and a refreshed interface
Amazon also unveiled a $US40 Fire TV Stick that it said should get a 50% speed boost compared with its predecessors, as well as a cheaper $US30 model called the Fire TV Stick Lite.
It’s not just the hardware that’s getting an update. Amazon is also rolling out a more personalised software experience for the Fire TV that should make content easier to find and offers new Alexa features.
The event shows that Amazon is doubling down on gaming, home security, and, of course, Alexa
Last year’s event was all about experimenting with new form factors for Echo devices, like the Echo Loop smart ring, Echo Frames glasses, and Echo Buds. But this year, Amazon dove deeper into the product categories it’s been expanding into for years, such as the smart home, security, and entertainment.
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