Amazon has introduced two new devices to its Alexa voice-activated personal assistant family, enhancing its role and presence in the smart-home market. Unveiled on March 3, Amazon's new spinoff gadgets, Tap and Dot, follow the Echo, a cylinder-shaped speaker with internet-connected microphones that became a cult hit after its release in 2014.
All three devices contain speakers and microphones to connect to Amazon's obedient Alexa voice-controlled artificial intelligence. Given the rising interest in smart-homes, Alexa faces stiff competition from other voice-controlled digital assistants as well including Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana and Google's search engine built into its smartphones and other devices' operating systems.
Available for $130 (£92), the 6.25 inch Amazon Tap is essentially a slimmer, portable, battery-operated version of Echo that connects through Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and has a dual speaker system backed by Dolby audio processing. While the Echo is always listening and can be prompted by a user saying the wake word Alexa, the Tap can be initiated by tapping a microphone button and then putting in your request.
Similar to the Echo, you can ask the Tap to play music (via Amazon Prime Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeart Radio and TuneIn), read headlines, hail an Uber, order a pizza, turn up the thermostat and more. The battery inside Tap is supposed to last up to nine hours and the product includes a charging cradle.
Priced at $90 (£64), the Echo Dot allows you to expand Alexa's presence in any room of the house, beyond just the one where the Echo is tethered. Shaped like a hockey puck, the device uses the same far-field voice recognition technology as the original Echo and can take simple spoken commands, play music, control other smart home devices like lights, switches and more.
You can also connect to any set of speakers via Bluetooth or audio cables to add voice control capabilities to your home speaker system and allow for much better audio than the Echo or the small speaker built into the Dot. Lack of volume from the mini-device makes it much more practical for quick questions, weather reports or act as an efficient alarm clock in the morning than play music all day.
Both products are expected to ship by the end of March, but you can pre-order them on Amazon.com now. Although the Amazon Tap is available for anyone to purchase, the Dot is currently limited to Amazon Prime Members who have already bought the Amazon Echo or Amazon Fire TV, for now. Just say "Alexa, order an Echo Dot."