Amazon’s fall hardware event was chock full of updates. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the generative AI boom from the last year, the company began transforming Alexa into a much more versatile and conversational personal chatbot. But it also had plenty of new hardware to introduce, with new models of the Echo Show, security cameras, Echo Frames, a 10-gigabit router and more. Here’s everything Amazon unveiled on Wednesday.
Alexa with generative AI
As generative AI has exploded in popularity during the last year, task-focused personal assistants like Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa now seem even more dated than they did before. Amazon began to rectify that on Wednesday with a new Alexa chat feature that responds to a much wider variety of requests by using generative AI. When saying, “Alexa, let’s chat,” the assistant switches to a chatbot mode built on a large language model (LLM).
Alexa’s new AI chat mode makes the assistant more conversational and expressive, and you won’t need to keep repeating “Alexa” each time you speak. If you enroll in the company’s Visual ID, you can start a conversation just by facing the screen on an Echo device with a camera. Alexa can now adjust its tone and “emotion” based on context. The company says it also works around your pauses and hesitations for a more free-flowing conversation. However, Amazon’s live presentation had a couple of hitches where the assistant forced presenter Dave Limp to repeat himself.
Amazon says Alexa will move further in this direction with an upcoming speech-to-speech update. “And we’re working on a new model—which we refer to as speech-to-speech,” said Amazon senior VP Rohit Prasad. “Instead of first converting a customer’s audio request into text using speech recognition, and then using an LLM to generate a text response or an action, and then text-to-speech to produce audio back—this new model will unify these tasks, creating a much richer conversational experience.”
Echo Show 8
Amazon launched a new Echo Show 8 on Wednesday, boasting upgrades to its display, camera and microphones. Proximity sensing is a marquee feature on the new model, as it can adjust its UI depending on how close you are to it. For example, a demo showing the weather app used a larger font as the person stood farther away, but it shrunk the font and added finer details as they moved closer.
The device includes spatial audio capabilities for “a wider and more immersive sound experience,” as Limp described. The Echo Show 8 also has a centered camera, which should make video calls feel more natural for your partner, and upgraded audio that minimizes background noise. It also has a faster processor and a built-in smart home hub.
The new Echo Show 8 costs $150 and is available for pre-order now ahead of an expected October ship date.
Amazon updated its Echo Frames smart glasses for the first time in over two years. The wearable device has a longer battery life: up to six hours of continuous media playback. Perhaps even more importantly, the new models are 15 percent slimmer than the previous generation, making them look more like regular glasses and less like a bulky tech product strapped to your face.
The new Echo Frames also have a “redesigned audio experience,” including more balanced sound, better audio clarity and less distortion. Their onboard speech processing is also improved, which could lead to more reliable responses in different environments. They’ll ship in seven new styles, including both glasses and sunglasses variants. (There’s also a more expensive version through a partnership with Carrera called “Carrera Smart Glasses.”)
The Echo Frames cost $270, while the Carrera Smart Glasses variant will cost $390. They’re available for pre-order.
Eero Max 7
Amazon describes its new Eero Max 7 as a combined router, range extender and repeater. The device offers 10-gigabit Ethernet connections, with advertised download speeds of a 4K movie in 10 seconds or a 50 GB game in less than a minute.
The device supports the 2.4GHz, 5GHz and 6 GHz radio bands with speeds up to 4.3 Gbps for wireless connections and 9.4 Gbps for wired connections. It includes four Ethernet ports and covers 2,500 square feet of wireless coverage, and you can link them together to create a mesh network to cover even more ground.
The Eero Max 7 costs $600 and will be available “soon.” It, too, is available for pre-order today.
The newly revealed Echo Hub is a new device for managing various smart home gadgets around your house. It has an 8-inch display and is meant to be mounted on a wall, although Amazon says it will also offer a stand accessory. “Today, smart home panels are expensive, they require professional installers, and they don’t age well. We set out to change that,” said Amazon smart home chief Charlie French.
Although it includes Alexa controls and can behave like standard Echo speakers, it also supports the major smart home protocols, including Matter and Thread — supporting over 140,000 smart home devices. The device supports Wi-Fi by default but can connect to compatible ethernet routers with an optional USB-C cable. The Echo Hub’s infrared sensors can even tell when someone is nearby and shift into a default clock mode when nobody is around.
The device lets you arm your security system with a quick tap, and it will display multiple live camera feeds simultaneously. It can control select smart home devices locally, leading to faster response times. “Now, when a customer taps to turn on a light from their Echo Hub, it can turn on in as little as 300 milliseconds—it feels like flipping a light switch,” the company said on Wednesday.
As with many Amazon devices, the Echo Hub’s killer feature may be its price. It will be available later this year for $180, and you can pre-order it today.
Ring and Blink security cameras
The Ring Stick Up Cam Pro is a $180 indoor / outdoor camera with intelligent tracking features. The device adds 3D motion detection (already found in the Ring Video Doorbell 2, Floodlight Cam Pro and Spotlight Cam Pro) to provide what Amazon describes as more refined and accurate motion alerts. It employs radar technology to track people’s paths across the camera’s field of view. It can monitor where people in its frame are going and the route they took to get there. You can pre-order it today.
Meanwhile, Amazon’s other security camera unit, Blink, got several new accessories. First, the $50 Sync Module Pro extends the range of the Blink Outdoor 4, saying it will reach “the furthest corner of your property.” There’s also a new $160 wireless floodlight mount for the Blink Outdoor 4 that will blanket your yard in light with its motion-triggered LEDs. Finally, Amazon is launching a battery extender for the Outdoor 4 that can supposedly stretch its battery life to “up to four years.” The three accessories are available for pre-order and are slated to ship beginning on October 17.
Fire TV updates
Amazon launched the new Fire TV Soundbar, a Bluetooth-enabled audio device compatible with “all Fire TV streaming products and TVs,” according to Amazon VP Daniel Rausch. The soundbar is available starting today for $120.
The Fire TV 4K Max received an incremental update on Wednesday, bumping its processing power by 0.2GHz and its Wi-Fi from 6 to 6E. The device supports HDR, HDR10+, Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision. It’s available for pre-order for $60 and is scheduled to ship on September 27. Amazon also updated the standard 4K Fire TV Stick with more processing power, 4K support and Wi-Fi 6.
The company also rolled out a new Fire TV Ambient Experience for the device, making it easy to view info like your family calendar, reminders and local forecast. In addition, it’s adding “hundreds of new images” to its free “gallery-quality” art selection for TVs in standby mode.
Fire TV devices will add a new search experience that uses Amazon’s LLMs to make on-device search more natural and conversational. They’re also adding a unified Continue Watching row that aggregates favorite content (from providers like Prime Video, Disney+, Max, Peacock and more) in one spot. Amazon says it focuses on recency, making it easier to resume the last thing you checked out — regardless of the service.
Amazon’s Echo devices are receiving some new accessibility features later this year. Eye Gaze on Alexa is a new feature for the Fire Max 11 tablet that lets people with mobility or speech disabilities perform preset actions using only their line of sight. You can play music and shows, control smart home devices or call loved ones without using your hands or voice. The feature will arrive later this year.
Call Translation is a new feature for the Echo Show that will transcribe calls with onscreen captions. It can translate speech into over 10 languages, including English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. The feature will arrive later this year on Echo Show devices (and in the Alexa app) for users in the US, Canada, Mexico, the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain.
To make homes full of smart home devices simpler to manage, Amazon introduced Map View. The feature lets you view and control your home devices using a digital floor plan.
Map View will let you create an indoor map of your home using your phone. (It will initially launch on LiDar-enabled iOS devices.) The idea is for the feature to serve as an alternative to the (often messy) Alexa app’s devices list, displaying them room-by-room. It lets you quickly glance at your setup, control devices and even view live camera feeds by glancing at the floor-plan layout.
The opt-in feature will launch in the US later this year.
Amazon is extending Alexa’s new generative AI powers to kids’ devices. However, as you may expect, it should be a heavily guardrailed version of the feature that supposedly protects children from unsavory material. The company says it “gracefully redirects kids back to the conversation at hand and away from inappropriate or sensitive content.”
The company also showcased the Echo Pop Kids, a new smart speaker for children. It ships in two variants: Avengers and Disney Princess. You can pre-order the $50 speaker now. It ships in October and includes six months of the Amazon Kids+ subscription service.
Alexa Emergency Assist
A feature that could benefit seniors or people with disabilities, Alexa Emergency Assist lets you contact first responders by saying, “Alexa, call for help.” The feature will connect you with a “dedicated, professionally trained agent” available 24/7.
When you set up Alexa Emergency Assist, it will save your home address, medications, allergies and device info to save you from having to pass that on to the person on the line.
Alexa Emergency Assist will launch in the US and is “coming soon.” It will cost $6 per month or $59 annually when it arrives.