Amazon is turning its voice-controlled Echo speaker into a smart hub of sorts.
Echo will get an update this week that allows it to wirelessly control smart accessories within Belkin's WeMo and Philips' Hue connected systems, according to Engadget. The first supported products will include lights and power switches, meaning you'll be able to use voice commands via Echo to control lighting and outlets in your connected home.
Amazon debuted Echo last November. It's a connected speaker that looks like a MacPro, because it's cylindrical. Apart from its unique design, Echo notably has a voice assistant called Alexa. She responds to natural-language voice commands. To wake Alexa, say Alexa followed by what you want to ask or command.
You can say, for instance, "Alexa, play The Doors." Amazon said it processes and acts upon all voice commands in the cloud, and that information comes from set sources. Music comes from Amazon Music, Prime Music, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn, while weather comes from AccuWeather, and facts come from Wikipedia, etc.
Echo is Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled, stands 9.25-inches tall, and works with a companion app. It boasts seven microphones, as well as a remote with a built-in mic and music controls. It also plugs into the wall and doesn't have a battery. Echo is therefore a stationary speaker and costs $199 (or $99 for Prime members).
With this update, Amazon is essentially transitioning Echo from an interesting product for audiophiles to a smart assistant for Internet of Things junkies. It has purpose, and it'll be interesting to see where Amazon takes it from here.
Keep in mind you still have to request an invitation to get Echo, which means waiting a few weeks for a response.