Amazon's new Echo Show can make video calls
Amazon has rolled out yet another version of the Echo - this time sporting a screen that allows users to make and take video calls.
The Echo Show, as it's called, signals that Amazon is not only pushing ahead with its goal of ruling the home but is also taking a major shot at a messaging platform.
It looks to complement - or even supplant - the phone or personal computer when it comes to real-time communication.
It also illustrates how deeply Amazon and other companies want to embed themselves in consumers' lives, with technology that almost fades into the background of our homes.
However, like Amazon's other speaker devices, the Echo Show won't be officially be available in New Zealand. While you can get Echos in some stores or import them, several features don't work.
The calls work just about as you might expect, using a front-facing camera. There's also a "drop-in" mode on the Echo Show, which will automatically accept a video call after 10 seconds.
That could feel invasive to some. But Amazon's ads indicate that only people of your choosing can use the feature - close friends and family, for instance. Recipients can also decline a drop-in or make it audio-only, if they respond in that 10-second window.
The 7-inch screen also serves other purposes. Consumers will be able to watch short videos from YouTube and Amazon on the screen, in addition to movie trailers. If you call up tunes from the company's Prime Music service, the lyrics to songs will scroll by as it plays.
The addition of a screen also adds to the smart home functions already available on the Echo with users being able to use the Echo Show to peek in on their home security cameras or baby monitors.
The screen could also make certain apps easier to use, by displaying visual menus rather than having Alexa rattle off a string of options.
Amazon will also let people place video calls through the Alexa app and all Echo users will be able to leave voicemail - effectively sneaking a new Amazon messaging platform onto the Echo, smartphones and tablets.
The Show costs US$229 and is expected to ship in the US on June 28.
- The Washington Post