Home Artificial Intelligence Amazon refreshes its Echo lineup, adds a Wi-Fi extender and smart speaker combo, Echo Pop

Amazon refreshes its Echo lineup, adds a Wi-Fi extender and smart speaker combo, Echo Pop

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Amazon refreshes its Echo lineup, adds a Wi-Fi extender and smart speaker combo, Echo Pop

After last fall’s Amazon hardware event, which brought us a handful of latest Echo devices, just like the Dot with the clock and other minor updates, Amazon today is rolling out a broader refresh of its Echo lineup, which incorporates a latest form factor with the arrival of the Echo Pop. While the present Dot is more of a rounded, bubble-shaped Echo, the Pop is a semi-circle and is available in teen-friendly colours like lavender and teal, while also serving to increase your house’s Wi-Fi network due to eero.

Alongside the launch, Amazon also unveiled other updated Echo devices, including the Echo Show 5, Echo Buds and Echo Auto, and offered more context about the way it sees AI impacting Alexa’s future.

Until recently, Alexa’s future was seemingly uncertain, given reports of the billions of dollars the division has lost, its failures to encourage voice shopping and, later, the larger cost-cutting measures on the retail giant, which included layoffs in Amazon’s devices group.

Nonetheless, SVP of Alexa Rohit Prasad downplays the impact those cuts had on Alexa, telling TechCrunch that of the two,000 people let go inside Amazon’s Devices and Services organization, only “a fraction of those were in Alexa,” he says. “Contrary to among the things written, it was very small in context,” Prasad argues. “By way of our roadmap and our conviction, Alexa is considered one of the most important investments at Amazon and our conviction has only grown — especially on this time of how exciting AI is and what could be a quantitatively different, higher, and more useful Alexa for our customers.”

Or, reading between the lines, Alexa’s AI potential outpaces that of the devices where it currently lives, just like the Echo speakers, given its ability to increase its learnings elsewhere inside Amazon.

“I’m very optimistic that…the AI advances shall be massive, but we are literally contributing to the Amazon businesses,” Prasad adds. “And I think that Alexa is well on its trajectory to be that non-public AI — which can even be a successful business for us.”

Image Credits: Amazon

As for the products themselves, the brand new $39.99 Echo Pop, which could seemingly eat into the Dot’s market share, has a front-facing directional speaker and is powered by the Amazon AZ2 Neural Edge processor. It also comes with eero Built-in, allowing the device so as to add as much as 1,000 square feet of coverage to an existing eero Wi-Fi network, giving the device a dual purpose.

Along with “Lavender Bloom” and “Midnight Teal,” the Pop is available in black and white.

Amazon says the Pop is along with, and never a substitute for, its existing Dot lineup, and the Dot and Dot with Clock remain available.

Image Credits: Amazon

Meanwhile, the $89.99 Echo Show 5 and $99.99 Echo Show 5 Kids edition each got an upgrade that makes them now 20% faster than the prior generation. Each also include a re-engineered microphone array, a faster AZ2 Neural Edge processor and an upgraded speaker system that guarantees a doubling of the bass and clearer sound.

They usually now support the brand new smart home standard Matter, as does the brand new Echo Pop.

Image Credits: Amazon

The children’ device — available within the U.S., U.K. and Germany — is barely costlier because it features a yr of the subscription service Amazon Kids+, offering ad-free and age-appropriate apps, games, Alexa skills and audiobooks, plus other kid-friendly features just like the AI-powered story making tool, Create with Alexa. The latter has two latest themes: Dinosaurs and Jazzy Jungle.

Image Credits: Amazon

Amazon’s $49.99 Alexa earbuds, Echo Buds, are also being updated with richer sound via a 12mm dynamic driver, improved clarity and a longer-lasting battery.

The brand new Buds stand up to 5 hours of continuous playback, and as much as 20 total hours of listening from a full case charge — the latter is up from 15 hours, within the prior generation. The earbuds also feature two microphones and a voice detection accelerometer, customizable tap controls, a VIP filter and multipoint pairing.

Image Credits: Amazon

The prevailing Echo Auto for vehicles can be now being made available to customers in Australia, Canada, the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Japan.

Image Credits: Amazon

As for Alexa, Amazon previously shared a few of its thoughts about its smart assistant’s future during last month’s first-quarter earnings call with investors. Here, CEO Andy Jassy spoke of the corporate’s work to construct a more “generalized and capable” large language model (LLM) to power Alexa and said the brand new LLM would help Amazon work toward its goal of constructing the perfect personal assistant — not only a sensible speaker.

Already, a lot of Alexa’s experiences have been powered by a big 20 billion-parameter language model with encoder-decoder architecture, which it says is the most important encoder-decoder model ever built. And with the introduction of Transformer-based large-scale multilingual models, the Alexa Teacher Model (or AlexaTM because it’s called) can transfer what it knows to a different language without human supervision, helping Alexa get smarter, faster. The model can be utilized in conversational skills like Create with Alexa, where kids and Alexa provide you with stories together.

Still, despite these AI advances, most customers are still using their Echo devices for basic tasks, like controlling their smart home or getting updates about their Amazon orders. Though sales of Alexa-enabled devices have now topped 500 million, they haven’t helped Amazon sell more merchandise, reports found. But Prasad says Alexa usage remains to be growing, with Alexa interactions up 35% year-over-year. People using the assistant to get information is up by greater than 50% year-over-year, he notes.

As for what comes next, the exec only offers the broadest of hints.

The goal, he says, is for Alexa to supply higher answers, but in addition those which can be grounded in facts — a concern with modern AI. Plus, Alexa’s answers must be personalized to the top user. For instance, should you told Alexa you felt hot, it should offer to show your thermostat down, not suggest you go to the beach to chill off.

“We have already got announced the Bedrock service which is for enterprise use cases,” Prasad says, referring to AWS’ latest tools for constructing with generative AI. “After which, for Alexa — for the patron use cases, like powering all of the conversational experiences on Alexa — you’ll find qualitatively different elements of experiences that we’ll be launching along the yr,” he teases.

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