Amazon has announced that its voice-activated “Echo” device, used to control other devices in your home such as lights and switches, is open for preorders to anyone in the U.S.
The device taps the burgeoning Internet of Things concept of “ubiquitous computing” and smart homes, which means its usefulness relies a lot on its compatibility with third-party products. Indeed, to gain maximum value from the Echo, you will probably also need to invest in additional products, such as the Belkin WeMo Switch, which costs $43, or the WeMo Insight Switch, and Light Switch. Elsewhere, the Hue A19, Lux, BR30, Bloom, and LightStrip are also supported by the Echo to help you control the lights in your home using your voice.
That said, the Echo performs a number of functions that don’t require deep integration with your house — it works as a hands-free, always-on personal assistant that answers your questions on things like traffic, weather, and other information that’s on the Web. You can also train it to recognize your voice, so if someone else is speaking at the same time, it will focus on your dulcet tones only. In theory, at least.
The Echo also supports third-party audio services such as Pandora, Audible, and Amazon Prime Music, letting you request music without lifting a finger, while it also integrates with Google Calendar so you can “hear” what’s on your upcoming agenda.
Regular Amazon shoppers can also reorder products that are eligible for Amazon Prime shipping, meaning stationery or kitchen supplies are a mere voice command away.
Though you can preorder an Amazon Echo from today, it won’t ship until July 14.