Ahead of the holiday shopping season, Amazon gifted us with its annual announcement of new and refreshed devices, including the new Fire TV Soundbar, Fire TV Stick 4K Max and Eero Max 7. Throughout the presentation were mentions of updates to Alexa, stressing the AI aspects of its assistant.
A new Map View app lets you manage your smart home; it will be available to select customers in the US starting later this year.
Amazon’s been working for years to address the need for a “superhuman assistant,” and now it’s incorporating all the sensors in its devices to improve Alexa’s performance and usability.
Though Amazon’s AI is generative, it says an AI for the home is different than for creators. Amazon has a bigger, newer generative AI model optimized for voice, smart home, real time information and home entertainment control. The company says it makes Alexa more conversational and has less latency. Its large language model is optimized to prevent hallucinations – you don’t want it to turn on the wrong light, for example – and is more personalized and remains secure.
Amazon demoed a proof of concept called Let’s Chat. For one, you’ll no longer have to preface your statements with “Alexa.” But you have to look into the camera initially so that it knows you’re addressing it. You can interrupt it and build on queries; it seems to behave like the AIs we’ve seen on phones.
For the future, Amazon’s working on a speech-to-speech model to make the interaction seem less like a series of discrete tasks and responses. Part of that is a new developer interface for Alexa, as well as the ability to incorporate the developers’ custom LLMs, which means more complex skills are coming in the future.
New accessibility features are on the way as well. Eye Gaze on Alexa will let you perform preset actions via eye tracking and will debut on the Fire Max 11 tablet. Also later this year, any Echo Show device will support Call Translation to convert voice to text display as well as language to language.
Alexa Emergency Assist ($5.99 per month, starting in October) will deliver 24/7, hands-free access to urgent response agents; it will already have any emergency contacts, your location and any important health information.
Explore With Alexa is a kid-focused version that uses a filtered version of its LLM to answer questions based on kid-friendly sources.
Echo Show 8 and Echo Hub
New features for the Show include a centered camera, edge-to-edge glass, noise cancellation, Matter support and smart home hub, spatial audio processing for speakers and room adaptation technology. A new adaptive content technology automatically changes the contents of the screen based on where you are in relation to it, and a new spoken language model lets it run Alexa’s processing locally — plus Amazon will be including a carbon footprint card on each of its own product pages.
It costs $150; you can preorder today, and it ships next month.
A new Photos Edition ($160) streams photos from the cloud; a subscription for extra cloud storage runs $2 per month.
Echo Hub is a wall-mounted controller for managing your devices – and anything that uses Matter and Thread, as well. It has proximity detection for contextual display. It’s coming later this year for $180.
New Map View app lets you manage your smart home visually; it will be available to select customers in the US starting later this year.
Echo Pop Kids has new Marvel Avengers and Disney Princess editions ($50).
Amazon introduces new Echo Show 8 with adaptive home screen
Fire HD 10 and Fire HD 10 Kids Pro
These $190 10-inch tablets are lighter than before, and Amazon claims they’re 25% faster than the previous generation; they’ve got 1080p displays, 3GB of RAM and up to 13 hours of battery life. There will be more Play Together games in the Kids Plus service as well.
These are for Alexa on the go; they’ve got improved battery life (six hours), multipoint pairing, more ear-targeted audio with less distortion, better wake-word performance in bad conditions, and seven frames styles. They start at $270, and you can sign up soon.
Amazon’s new Echo Frames glasses have better audio and battery life
Fire TV Soundbar, TV Stick 4K and TV Stick 4K Max
A new, Bluetooth-enabled soundbar ($120) is available today.
The standard Fire TV Stick 4K has a faster processor and upgraded Wi-Fi (to Wi-Fi 6) over its predecessor. You can get it now for $40. The 4K Max comes with Wi-Fi 6E, has a better processor and supports HDR, HDR10 Plus and Dolby Atmos. You can preorder it today for $60. The Max also runs the Ambient Experience, which also gets more widgets to choose from. Ambient Experience will also be able to show AI-generated art and the ability to style your photos via AI.
Fire TV itself has a new, more conversational search experience and a larger information base that integrates IMDB; results are based on your profile and your watching history. It will aggregate your watching history to continue playing. With the purchase of any Fire TV streaming device or TV, you’ll also get six months of MGM Plus. The new features will come to existing devices via an over-the-air update later this year.
Blink and Ring
A new Blink Sync Module Pro ($50) acts as an extender for existing devices, and the Blink Outdoor 4 Floodlight Camera ($160) adds an extension battery for $30.
Ring adds 3D Motion detection to the Ring Stick Up Cam Pro ($180, available to preorder now), improved audio, color preroll and a motion detection history. The Ring app will now prepopulate routines based on your preferences and devices.
Amazon’s newest outdoor Blink cameras promise better battery life and range
Eero Max 7
Amazon’s first Wi-Fi 7 router, it comes with two 10Gb Ethernet ports, two 2.5Gbps Ethernet ports and a 9.4Gbps wired speed; it has an updated cooling system to keep pace. It starts at $600 and will come in single units as well as two- and three-packs.
Amazon’s Newest Eero Router Goes Next-Gen with Support for Wi-Fi 7