Amazon Echo (image 001)

I’m not really sure what to think about Amazon’s crazy connected speaker with built-in personal digital assistant. What I do know is that the Echo could be a close approximation of what a next-generation Apple TV with built-in Siri might be like. Taking another swing at hardware, the Echo is well designed: it sports both sexy looks and the smarts.

It’s also got a few cool tricks up its sleeve to dazzle unsuspecting users. In a nutshell, the Echo will talk to you, play music, read your news headlines, check the weather, find facts online — and also sell you things — for $199.

Oh, and it’s an ”expertly tuned speaker that can fill any room with immersive sound”. The cylindrically shaped Echo responds to the “Alexa” keyword and can be controlled through a smartphone or tablet as well, though that kinda negates its hands-free, always-on philosophy.

Amazon Echo (image 005)

The device takes advantage of Amazon Web Services and incorporates as many as seven microphones that can pick your voice anywhere in a room and even hear you ask a question while it’s playing music.

Amazon Echo (image 004)

And because it’s connected to the cloud, the Echo gets smarter over time and can/will gain richer functionality via over-the-air firmware updates. Features like setting alarms, creating music playlists or adding items to shopping lists tap an accompanying Amazon Echo app for Android and Fire OS.

In addition to built-in music services like Amazon Music, Prime Music, TuneIn and iHeartRadio, the Echo can play music from your phone or tablet via Bluetooth. And in case you had any doubts, it will take your voice commands to order any item of your choosing available on Amazon’s web store.

Amazon Echo (image 002)

Amazon has put together a promotional video — it’s a bit over-the-top — which depicting a cloud-enabled family interacting with their Echo and using functions like playing music, setting an alarm, creating a shopping list, retrieving snippets of information form the Internet and what not.

Give it a quick watch if you have four minutes of spare time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkOCeAtKHIc

For the time being, the Echo is available on an invite-only basis for $199. If you’re a Prime member (a $99 per year value), you’ll save a cool $100 for a limited time.

Amazon Echo (image 003)

If selected, you shall receive an email invite to buy your Echo “in the coming weeks.”

To learn more about the gadget, visit amazon.com/echo.

What say you?

Is a tube that answers your question a terrible idea or do you see this accessory potentially gaining some traction in the living room?