work for you?
The Amazon Echo Show debuted this week, and this particular writer was left with one major question — why? For $229, or the price of a decent 32" TV, you can now acquire a device that essentially combines a 7-inch screen with an Amazon Echo (now only $149.99). Amazon currently has a 70% majority in the voice-assisted speaker market and seems to be trying anything to innovate further. But will the new Echo Show or recently released Echo Look fall flat?
What Does the Echo Show do?
One of the only major advantages that Google has over Amazon is the ability for Google Home to stream video content to your Chromecast. In an ideal world, the Amazon Fire Stick would be popular enough to be the go-to device for Alexa to stream video to your TV. Instead, Amazon looks to the new Show and hopes you'll hover over the small screen to watch your content. While this might make sense for recipes in the kitchen, it seems like a bit of a stretch in most cases. When most of us have a 5-inch smartphone screen wherever we go, it is hard to imagine walking up to a device and sitting through a YouTube video on the Echo Show.
Other display demos that Amazon has shown in the debut video seem downright useless. Cover art from your favorite album is a nice touch, but who really needs lyrics on the screen? This feature would only be used for some solo karaoke while you wait for that one other friend with an Echo Show to video call you. Which brings us to the free Alexa video calling aspect of the Echo Show. While this may seem nice in concept, each of your friends and family members would need to use the Alexa app or have their own Echo Show to make a call. The "drop in" feature may also be nice for checking in on grandma unexpectedly, but more often than not, it will lead to a panicked rush to hit the ignore button, followed by an awkward video conversation with your folks about why you are wearing a cape.
Lastly, the issues that folks have with a device that is "always listening" is compounded when the device is "always watching" you. I'm not one to put a post-it over the webcam on my laptop, but there are a growing number of people who avoid any camera connected to the internet. The Echo Show may be a hard sell for those folks that fear they may be "Showing" themselves for the world to see in their bedroom.
The Echo Look is Still a Mystery to Us
With all of the latest paranoia surrounding webcams watching us, it only makes sense for Amazon to also release the Echo Look last month. If you ever wanted to know what you look like from the backside, then Amazon has a product specifically made for you. The Echo Look aims to cash in on the "Instagram selfie" and "social media influencer" culture. You can tell the Echo Look to take your picture and keep a log of each outfit through the new mobile app. It even blurs the background to make sure that you are the main focus. Yes, that is an actual feature.
At $199.99, the new Echo Look is priced the same as the now-discounted standard Echo. For that price, it adds a camera that seems to have a very limited use in this early form. Beyond simply keeping track of your fashion, the new Style Check feature will also then compare two of your outfits and show a preference of one over the other — which sounds like quite the breakthrough in the "robots and computers judging us" field.
What's Next for Amazon Echo?
Don't get me wrong, I understand the appeal of a voice assistant. When it comes to controlling your smart home or simply using your voice to play music, it is an awesome innovation. But the latest devices seem to be innovation in the wrong direction. More focus on increasing the intelligence of the Alexa AI or developing media streaming integration with Fire Stick seem like a better use of resources. Until then, the Echo Show and Echo Look will be given away to social influencers, while competitors like Google and Microsoft play catch up.
Images courtesy of Amazon.
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