Amazon is clearly thinking beyond simple smart speakers for its Alexa virtual assistant. A new report from Bloomberg details some of the concepts that the company is apparently looking into right now, with some more likely to see the light of day than others.
The most interesting of these is what can best be described as a supersized Echo Show. Bloomberg says that the device, codenamed Hoya, will pack a 15-inch display that can either be wall mounted or held in place with a stand. But with the largest Echo Show currently coming in at 10 inches, this would be a substantial device, making even the imposing 12.9-inch iPad Pro look small by comparison.
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Although the report doesn’t call the device a member of the Echo Show family, that would seem the most apt comparison, and in terms of features it sounds similar — albeit a bit more customized as a ‘hub’ for the home.
To that end, it will reportedly have “a user interface that can show widgets for weather, timers, calendar appointments and photos,” but will still include the usual Echo Show functions, such as streaming videos and showing recipes. “It also could serve as a window in the status of inbound Amazon packages,” the report adds.
You can probably expect to see more display-based Echos in future, as Bloomberg claims that the company “has found that customers engage more with devices that have screens than with audio-only devices.”
Speaking of screens, a soundbar — codenamed Harmony — will supposedly aim to take advantage of the biggest one in your house: the TV. While at its core it would simply be a way of boosting your TV’s sound credentials, as all the best soundbars do, it would reportedly have a secret weapon: a built-in microphone and webcam, allowing you to make video calls through your TV, similar to Facebook’s Portal TV.
If Bloomberg's report proves to be true, and if this soundbar reaches the market, there's a good chance it could be a big hit, particularly if social distancing and remote work continues to play a major part in our lives.
There’s also apparently a second generation of Echo Auto in the works. While we were somewhat underwhelmed by the first version, as our Echo Auto review makes clear, the second generation will supposedly include a new design and allow for charging of devices via inductive technology.
The Bloomberg report is dubious as to whether we’ll see “major updates” to the Echo and Echo Dot this year, with a 2022 push seen as more likely. But outside of Alexa-based devices, the company is apparently also looking to build on its Halo fitness tracker with one aimed at children, and another aimed at older customers — the latter with fall detection, similar to the Apple Watch 7.
The report also casts a light on Amazon products that have been axed or are likely to be. It claims there was an Alexa-powered karaoke microphone with the codename Jackson which has apparently been shelved, while the Alexa robot codenamed Vesta also seems doubtful, despite having been in the works for years. According to the report, members of staff including founder and chairman Jeff Bezos have expressed doubts about its viability, and it’s not hard to see why.
A current prototype is said to be simply a 7-inch screen on wheels that follows the owner around the house reminding them of calendar appointments. And while the computer vision tech is apparently “effective,” it “lacks arms and can’t use stairs.” Combine that with the belief that early versions could cost as much as $1,000, and you can see why the company may see this as far from a sure thing.
Amazon actually has an event this week where some of these devices may get an airing. Although the event won’t be streamed to the public, we’ll cover all the products as and when they’re announced, so be sure to check back on Tuesday to hear about some of the new products you’ll be adding to your wishlist in time for Black Friday.
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