Amazon just put out a flurry of new Alexa-powered devices and services, as the company continues to find new ways to deploy its digital assistant.
For years, the Echo was Amazon’s flagship device, but in the last 12 months the company has been releasing a variety of new devices. The pace of the company’s Alexa-powered push hit a new high Wednesday, when the company announced six either new or next generation devices, as well as some new Alexa services.
Amazon’s dizzying push to expand Alexa’s capabilities has grown the number of people working on it to more than 5,000, with close to 1,100 open positions. Third-party developers are hard at work as well, and Alexa has amassed more than 25,000 “skills.”
Here is a rundown of all the new devices Amazon announced this morning:
Next generation Amazon Echo: Priced at $99.99, the newest Amazon Echo is smaller but even more powerful than the original version, Amazon says. In the newest Echo, Alexa is better at hearing wake words and cancelling out background noise. It comes in several designs, including charcoal, heather grey, sandstone, oak veneer, walnut veneer, and silver. Heads up: only the charcoal and heather grey models are priced at $99.99; the others will cost you $20 more. Both the next-gen Echo and Echo Plus are available for pre-order starting today with an Oct. 31 release date.
Echo Plus: Controlling smart home devices was one of the original tenets of the Echo, and now Amazon has taken that to the next level with the $149.99 Echo Plus. It looks like the original Echo and comes with a built-in smart home hub. Users can say “Alexa, discover my devices,” and the device will automatically discover and set up compatible lights, locks, plugs, switches, and more without having to go through other hubs or apps.
Echo Spot: The latest addition to the stable of Alexa-powered devices is the Echo Show mixed with the compact design of the Echo Dot. The device features a screen, front-facing camera and four microphones. It is priced at $129.99 and will be released Dec. 19.
Echo Connect: This $34.99 device is designed to turn the Echo into a hands-free speakerphone. It works with landlines or voice over IP. It allows users to ask Alexa to call people on their contact lists and will announce names of inbound callers. The device is an extension of the Alexa calling and messaging capabilities introduced earlier this year. Echo Connect will ship Dec. 13.
Echo Buttons: For $19.99, users get a two pack of Echo Buttons, which illuminate and can be pressed to trigger a variety of Alexa-based gaming experiences. Amazon said the buttons are the first in a series of “Alexa Gadgets, a new collection of accessories that enable fun and playful Alexa experiences.” Amazon did not give a release date for the Echo Buttons.
Next Generation Amazon Fire TV: Amazon introduced the latest version of its streaming media player, Amazon Fire TV. Priced at $69.99, Amazon says the new Fire TV is 40 percent more powerful than the popular Fire TV Stick and supports 4K Ultra HD and HDR. The device comes with an Alexa-powered voice remote to find, launch, and control content. Amazon says it is working on greater voice control capabilities for third-party apps like Netflix, Hulu and more. The new Fire TV ships Oct. 25.
Alexa on the road: Today’s event wasn’t just about new devices. Amazon announced that Alexa will be available in BMW and MINI vehicles in the U.S., U.K. and Germany starting in mid-2018. Drivers will be able to ask Alexa for directions, to call a business, play music, control smart home features and check the news. Alexa will be just as capable on the road as she is in any other device, with access to all of her third party skills. Many of them will be paired with a card that shows up on the car’s display screen.