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article imageAmazon unveils its touchscreen Echo Show smart speaker

By James Walker     May 9, 2017 in Technology
Amazon has announced its first touchscreen Alexa-powered smart speaker. The Echo Show's display is designed to let Alexa "show" you things like photos and lyrics, rather than communicating solely through voice. Its design could prove divisive.
Amazon unveiled the Echo Show today after months of rumours leading up to its launch. It expands the Echo range by adding a larger and more versatile product to the line-up. Former Echo devices have relied on voice commands for input.
The front of the Echo Show is dominated by its 7-inch touchscreen. Above the display, there's a small microphone and camera for use when speaking to the device or making calls. The bottom of the device houses the large speaker grille and openings for the microphone array. On top of the unit, the volume controls and a privacy button form the Echo Show's basic control panel.
The overall design of the device is radically different to the refined metal cylinder that houses the Echo. The imposing, box-like Echo Show doesn't look like it'll follow its older sibling's lead in seamlessly integrating with homes. It has a look that's reminiscent of kiosk PCs, implying Amazon considers it to be the "hub" of your home where your family checks up on notifications and prepares for the day.
Amazon Echo Show
Amazon Echo Show
Amazon is using Intel's Atom x5-Z8350 processor to power the device. While the operating system underneath is unconfirmed, it's believed Amazon has included a modified version of its Fire OS platform. Connectivity options consist of 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
Amazon is reusing its existing array of eight far-field beam-forming microphones as the basis of the Echo Show's voice recognition technology. Recently made available for other companies to use, the microphone setup lets you talk to Alexa from across the room without struggling to make yourself heard.
While its microphones are unchanged, the Echo Show's actual speaker has received a notable upgrade over the current Echo. Responding to criticism of the Echo's sometimes lacklustre output, Amazon has added a pair of Dolby-equipped speakers for improved audio quality.
Can Amazon Alexa analyze your emotions.
Can Amazon Alexa analyze your emotions.
The Echo's headline feature, Amazon's Alexa digital assistant, hasn't been given much special attention on the new device. Although some "skills" have been expanded to work with the display, at its heart the assistant remains unchanged. Amazon has added the ability to make and receive both voice and video calls though, developing the Echo's ability to handle a range of different tasks.
The Echo Show can also display video feeds from security cameras and baby monitors, show TV feeds and provide lyrics to songs playing on Amazon Music. Amazon has extended the existing capabilities of the Echo to include features that wouldn’t be usable with voice alone.
"Echo Show brings you everything you love about Alexa, and now she can show you things," Amazon's product description for the Echo Show reads. "Watch video flash briefings and YouTubers, see music lyrics, security cameras, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, and more. All hands-free – just ask."
The Amazon Echo Show will launch at $229.99 and will be available in the U.S. on June 28. Amazon hasn't yet announced worldwide availability but a gradual expansion to the other regions where Alexa is available is likely in the coming months. Two colours will be available, black and white.
More about Amazon, amazon echo, amazon echo show, smart speakers, Alexa
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