What’s the Amazon Echo Auto? We take a close look at how Amazon is transforming the driving experience, and ultimately making it safer to get information as you drive. This is a good thing for all of us as far too many people dangerously search for data on their phones as they drive. Being able to control all of your information with your voice will benefit all of us, including cyclists and pedestrians.
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Intro | Amazon Echo Auto
Amazon has, for several years, been reinventing the way we use technology in our everyday lives and Amazon Echo Auto is the latest of these innovative ideas. When they first introduced Kindle and e-Reader, we were blown away by this revolutionary new way to buy, use, and store books on one easy to use device. Then came Alexa, the virtual personal assistant and all the Echo products that interface with Amazon Alexa.
In September 2018, Amazon announced their latest addition to the Echo & Alexa range of products. The Echo Auto is a new way to connect from your car with a host of new features. If you haven’t yet climbed onto the Echo band wagon, this article will take you through the Echo history. Starting from its inception up to the current day. This is the story of how the Amazon Echo came to be.
I’ll conclude the article with the full low-down on the Amazon Echo Auto. So if you’re already familiar with Amazon Alexa and Echo, you can skip to the end of the article. Under the heading “Amazon Echo Auto – what’s it all about?” you’ll find out everything there is to know about this new product.
Amazon Auto Echo
Overview of Features — Amazon Auto Echo
- Connects to Alexa using your phone, is ready in seconds, and plays through your car speakers. Includes Echo Auto Dash Mount.
- With eight microphones and far-field technology, Echo Auto can hear you over music, A/C, and road noise.
- Use your voice to play music, check the news, open the garage door, find the nearest gas station, and more.
- Play Audible audiobooks, stream podcasts, or listen to Amazon Music, Apple Music (coming in 2019), Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM, or NPR.
- Make calls, set reminders, add items to your shopping and to-do lists, or manage your calendar.
- With over 50,000 skills and counting, Alexa is always getting smarter. Skills are like apps and let you do more with Alexa.
- Set location-based routines—automated actions Alexa can start when you leave the office or get home.
- Ask for directions and Alexa connects to supported apps like Google Maps. Apple Maps and Waze support will be coming in 2019.
Amazon Echo — Where did it all begin?
In 2010 Amazon started developing the Echo voice activation system to operate with Alexa Internet. Initial research and development was conducted at Amazon’s Lab 126 Facilities, based in Silicon Valley and Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The device was to include microphones and speakers that operated through a wireless internet connection. Echo allows the user to access internet services through voice activation and the information is supplied by means of speakers. This allows a totally hands-free way to use the internet for information, calendar services, and music, as well as video streaming.
Echo was introduced in the US in June 2015. This was originally available only to Amazon Prime Members in the USA. Through course of 2016, Amazon Echo availability spread to Canada and the UK. As of November 2018, Amazon Echo was available in 40 countries.
The Alexa smart device app and Amazon Echo have gone through many improvements over the years that followed and now also interacts with smart home devices. The ever-increasing abilities and upgrades have seen Amazon Echo grow in popularity worldwide.
Amazon Echo Products
First Generation Echo. The first Amazon Echo product did not make use of an internal battery and, therefore, had to be plugged into a power socket to function. It was a cylindrical device with a height of 9.25”. The Echo had built-in speakers, you control the volume by twisting the top section of the device. Two buttons at the top are used to control action and mute functions.
It used an array of 7 microphones, a Texas Instruments processor (ARM Cortex A-8). This provided 256 MB RAM and 4GB memory. Several limited edition variants were made available during 2016 and 2017. Wireless connection to mobile devices function using dual band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
Echo Dot was introduced in March 2016 as a portable, battery-powered version of the original Echo. Because of its small size, resembling a hockey puck, the Echo Dot does not have the same speaker capabilities of the full-size Echo. For this reason, the Echo Dot is able to connect to external speakers. In all other respects, the Echo Dot has the same functions and controls as the Echo.
In October of 2016, the Echo Dot was upgraded to have improved voice recognition and the new model was cheaper than the previous generation Echo Dot.
Amazon Tap was introduced to combine the battery-powered portability of the Dot with the all the functions of the original Echo. It didn’t need an electric socket and incorporated a large built-in speaker. Initially, the Tap could not be activated by voice, like the Echo or Dot, you had to press the activation button before talking. In 2017, a voice recognition software update eliminated the need to use the activation button and the tap could now be activated using a keyword.
Echo Look gave the Echo eyes. Using a 360° camera, the Echo look can take photographs and record video. It also took artificial intelligence to a new level and includes a fashion catalog feature, using information supplied by international fashion experts to recognize and catalog your outfits.
Echo Show brought the functions of a tablet to the world of Alexa. By including a 7” LCD screen, the Echo show (launched in May 2017) allowed media viewing and video calling, along with several other video functions.
In September 2018, the new Echo Show was introduced and features a larger, 10” screen, as well as improved speakers and a mesh exterior.
Echo Spot is a smaller version of the Echo show and was introduced in September 2017. It has the same functions as the Echo Show, but uses a small circular 2.5” screen.
Echo Plus is the most advanced Amazon Echo product and has been available since October 2017. The new version is able to connect to smart home devices, along with the all the other Echo features. This gives the user unprecedented management of their automated home systems. The Echo Plus also makes use of improved microphones. This is still an array of 7 microphones, but use far field technology, along with noise cancellation and Dolby Sound.
Amazon Echo Auto – What’s it all about?
Until very recently, all Amazon Echo products were designed to make Alexa more accessible in the home or office. In September 2018, along with several other new Alexa and Echo innovations, Amazon announced the launch of the new Amazon Echo Auto. This was the first Echo product developed for the car.
This means that you have all the Amazon Echo features in a unit that has been purpose designed for in-car use. Amazon Echo Auto connects to the internet through your smart mobile device, your smartphone or tablet and uses your existing mobile data plan. It also connects to most Bluetooth enabled car sound systems. You can stream music, by asking Alexa instead of messing about with the audio system and make use of the 50,000 or more Alexa skills. Yes, this is how far the Alexa smart technology has come over the years and grows bigger all the time.
A slim dashboard-mount device gives you full voice control, while your hands remain safely on the wheel and you listen through the car speakers. The advanced 8-microphone system with far field technology ensures that you can be heard over your music when making phone calls from your car.
Through Alexa, the Amazon Echo Auto gives access to audio books, podcasts, and Amazon Prime music. At the time of the launch, Apple music was not yet available. But they say it will be added to the Echo Auto features sometime in 2019.
Voice activated navigation is an obvious bonus. You can ask your Amazon Echo Auto to direct you anywhere and it will use online systems, like Google Maps and Waze, to navigate you to where you need to be. All the cool things that you have with standard Echo are also included in the Echo Auto, so you can organize your calendar, make your shopping list, set reminders, and set an array of automated functions.
Because Amazon Echo Auto connects to your smart home, you can control all of the home functions from the seat of your car without lifting a finger. This is great if you remember that you’ve left lights, or appliances on once you’re on the road. You can turn stuff on while you’re on your way home and ask Echo Auto to open the garage door as you approach.
Technology is incredible. The stuff we see today wasn’t even predicted by science-fiction script writers when I was a kid. It all moves so fast and who would have imagined that you could organize your life, access any entertainment, and even control the devices in your home by simply talking to the Amazon Echo Auto, anywhere, any time. Who knows what will be next. Even though the Amazon Echo Auto was only made available in October 2018, I’m excited to see what they’ll be adding in the future. I bet that before we see the end of 2019 there will already updated functions and features for the Amazon Echo range and Alexa grows smarter with each passing day.