Amazon Echo (shortened to Echo) is a brand of smart speakers developed by Amazon. Echo devices connect to the voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant service Alexa, which will respond when you say “Alexa”. Users may change this wake word to “Amazon”, “Echo” or “Computer”. The features of the device include: voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, and playing audiobooks, in addition to providing weather, traffic and other real-time information. It can also control several smart devices, acting as a home automation hub.
According to confirmed reports, Amazon started developing Echo devices inside its Lab126 offices in Silicon Valley and in Cambridge, Massachusetts as early as 2010. The device represented one of first attempts to expand its device portfolio beyond the Kindle e-reader. The Echo featured prominently in Amazon’s first-ever Super Bowl broadcast television advertisement in 2016.
Amazon initially limited the first-generation Echo to Amazon Prime members or by invitation, but it became widely available in the United States on June 23, 2015. The press speculated that it would make its Canadian debut in mid-to-late 2016, after Amazon posted job listings for developers for Alexa and co-hosted a hackathon in Toronto. The Echo became available in the United Kingdom on 28 September 2016. Additionally, the Alexa voice service is available to be added to other devices, and Amazon encourages other companies’ devices and services to connect to it.
Work on the Amazon Echo began in 2011, known as “Project D”. It was named this because the Kindle was Project A and the Fire Phone was Project B. The Amazon Echo was an offshoot of Project C. Project C is unknown, even though work on it has stopped. The Amazon Echo was originally supposed to be called the Amazon Flash. The wake word, the word that makes the device responsive, for the Echo used to be “Amazon”. Both of these attributes were disliked by Lab126, the division of Amazon that conducts research and development and creates computer hardware. Lab126 believed that “Amazon” is too much of a commonly used word, and the device would react when it was not intended to. Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, ended up being influenced by Lab126 to change the name of the device to the Amazon Echo and the wake word to “Alexa”. The Amazon Echo was originally pitched as only a smart speaker, it was not originally intended to be a smart home hub, as it is now, until after it hit the market. As Alexa, the artificial intelligence (A.I.) that powers the Amazon Echo, improved, the device became more of a controlling center for smart home appliances. Dave Is bit ski, the chief developer evangelist for the Echo and Alexa, received calls from smart home manufacturers to discuss connecting their devices, after the release of the Amazon Echo. Smart home devices had a problem, people were not buying smart home devices because they often required an extra app in order to be used which was not much better than just using the device manually. This discouraged many customers from buying smart home devices. The current vision for the Echo is for it to be the controlling hub of a smart home.
The Amazon Echo (1st Generation) was initially released in March 2014 for Amazon Prime and invited members, and was marketed alongside the voice of the product, Alexa. Alexa is a voice associated with the Amazon Echo that will respond to questions and requests through artificial intelligence. Amazon has claimed that the voice of Alexa was inspired by electronic communications systems featured in the television series Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Amazon developers decided on the name Alexa because the X in the end of the name makes the word appear symmetric and appealing, and the hard consonant sound makes the product name more easily remembered with more accuracy and precision (Bort, Julie).
Shortly after the Amazon Echo release, Amazon announced Alexa Fund in June 2015, in which they invested in companies that made voice control devices. This fund ended up investing over $100 million in several companies that made products like the Amazon Echo.
Since the release of the Amazon Echo in early 2014 the company, Amazon, has developed many similar devices that they have released into the artificial intelligence and technological markets.
In March 2016 Amazon released a byproduct of the Amazon Echo, called the Amazon Echo Dot. This device is essentially a hockey puck sized version of the original Amazon Echo released in 2014, and it has the same capabilities. This product was designed to be used in smaller rooms such as bedrooms due to its limited speaker capabilities (size) or to be paired with an external speaker. In November 2016 the second generation of the Echo Dot was released for a lower price with improved voice recognition and new colors.
The second generation of the Amazon Echo was released in October 2017. This update offered better voice recognition and a fabric covering exterior. Since this many other variants of the Amazon Echo have been released.
In May 2017 Amazon released the Amazon Tap, which is a portable, slightly smaller version of the Amazon Echo. Although the two products are similar the Tap is battery powered, portable, and requires the touch of a button in order to enable voice commands.
In April 2017 the Amazon Echo Look was released to invitees only, as an Amazon Echo with a built in camera. It was designed as a speaker, that is also handy with artificial intelligence that has smart algorithms to help you pick out outfits. It was released to the general public in August 2018.
In June 2018 the Amazon Echo Show was released to the public as a device with a 7-inch screen used for streaming media, making video calls, and the use of Alexa. The second generation of the device was made available in November 2018 and features a 10-inch screen with improved speakers.