Amazon’s new spherical Echo smart speaker is finally on sale – and we think it’s a great device to help seniors stay in touch.
The new ‘ball’ Echo design will cost $49 (£49 in the UK) and $59 (£59 in the UK) for a version with a built in clock display. There are three different colours (Charcoal, Glacier White, Twilight Blue) and the design is covered in fabric.
There’s also a kid’s edition with either a panda or tiger design for $59, although it’s not yet available in the UK.
Earlier this year the firm revealed the new design along with a new Show 10 device that can move its screen to follow you around the room when you’re on a video call (although that’s not on sale until later this year).
If you do buy one, don’t forget to read our guide to setting up Alexa for seniors, and download our Alexa cheat sheet, which you can print out and put next to the speaker so you don’t forget the most common commands.
If you can afford to splash out a little more, we think the larger Echo Show 8, which boasts a screen so you can make video calls, watch TV shows and even view your family photos is a better deal for most seniors.
New Echo Dot
Amazon said the new devices are powered by a radical new chip giving them far more power.
It’s also given Alexa a host of new and improved features, read all about them below.
New Echo Show 10
The new $249 (£239 in the UK) Echo Show 10 is able to move to follow you around if you’re on a video call. Amazon also said its software has got a big overhaul, not least of which the fact you can, at last, now watch Netflix on it.
The idea is that as you move, the screen does too, and the new 13-megapixel, wide-angle camera pans and zooms to keep you at the center of the frame.
It’ll also support Zoom and Skype calls for the first time, making this a great (if expensive) choice for anyone working from home.
However, it’s not available quite yet, with Amazon promising it will go on sale ‘for the holidays’.
New Alexa features
Amazon has given Alexa an overhaul, making the smart assistant far smarter using AI technology.
One new feature is Alexa can monitor for more sounds, including a baby crying, snoring, and a barking dog.
There’s also a new Guard Plus feature for $4.99 a month, which detects things like “footfalls or doors opening or closing. It can even play a fake dog barking sound if somebody walks up to your house.
Alexa group calling
Alexa Group Calling you can create a group of up to eight friends and family members, and simply say, “Alexa, call my family.”
Alexa care hub
Alexa Care Hub lets you monitor a family member’s home. You get an activity feed of what that person does in their smart home, and you can set up routines if nothing happens – so for instance, Alexa can alert you if there’s no activity a set period after your relative’s normal wakeup time.
We’ve got an article explaining everything you need to know about the Care Hub here.
Amazon’s new chip
One of the biggest additions to the new Echo is what Amazon’s calling the AZ1 Neural Edge silicon module, which will process the audio of your voice requests using local machine learning speech recognition algorithms before sending the command to the cloud.