Amazon Unleashes AI Assistant Echo for All

Seven months after unveiling its new voice interface platform to a small group of previewers, Amazon is releasing Echo to the general public. Echo allows users to control software applications, play music, search the Web, and open their calendars using only their voices.

As of July 14, customers in the U.S. can order the device from AmazonEUs Web site. Although Amazon is hardly the first company to experiment with intelligent, voice-activated assistants, the company is hoping that its take on technology will prove more successful than the tech of its competitors.

In terms of hardware, the Echo consists of a cylindrical black tower about nine inches tall and weighing a little less than two pounds. The tower contains an array of seven microphones used to pick up the user's voice and can connect to Wi-Fi-enabled and Bluetooth-enabled devices.

Where Many Have Gone Before

In theory, the idea of being able to tell Echo to turn down your thermostat or turn on the lights conjures heady fantasies of Tony Stark (Iron Man) asking Jarvis (loyal AI butler) to cancel his appointments or repair the Iron Man suit. But voice-activated AI assistants have been tried before, and so far none have managed to hold the marketEUs attention. Neither AppleEUs Siri nor MicrosoftEUs Cortana have yet been able to transform themselves into essential aspects of the average userEUs daily routine.

Amazon is hoping to succeed where others have failed, in part thanks to some new designs that it said will make Echo more effective than previous iterations of the voice assistant.

One of the chief complaints of this technology is the inability of the assistant to correctly interpret voice commands, often with comical results. But Amazon seems to have done considerable thinking into how to overcome that particular engineering challenge. In addition to the...

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