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Amazon announces voice-controlled Echo speaker

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Amazon Echo
Amazon Echo moves voice assistants from mobile devices to a dedicated speaker

Amazon has announced a brand new piece of hardware, which aims to replicate the functionality of voice-controlled personal assistants like Siri and Google Now, in the form of a small, standalone speaker.

The Amazon Echo, which costs $199 (around £125), is an interesting home-centric, cylindrical speaker which allows users to call out commands using a custom “wake world.”

For example, the cloud connected, Wi-Fi speaker can play music from Amazon Prime, it can search the web to answer questions, get daily news updates from NPR and can be used to set alarms, add items to shopping lists or get the weather forecast.

Users can issue commands like “Add make hotel reservations to my to do list,” while asking “Will it rain tomorrow?”

Echo purchasers will also be able to beam music from apps like Amazon Prime, iHeartRadio, Spotify and Rdio from their smartphone to the Echo speaker using the build-in Bluetooth connectivity.

Amazon claims the Echo speaker, which has 7 microphones, can be placed anywhere in the room thanks to the “far-field voice recognition technology” enabling owners to speak normally from anywhere in the room.

The plug-in speaker It is also able to hear commands, even when it is playing music, while it'll also leans to recognise the owner’s voice, speech patterns and vocabulary.

Naturally, there’s an Amazon Echo App to tie the experience together, which is available to download on Fire OS and Android devices, as well as desktop and iOS browsers. This will able users to manage alarms, music, shopping lists and more.

The Amazon Echo is invite only for now, but Prime subscribers in the US can request an invitation and snag one of the devices for a half-price $99 (around £60).

There’s no word yet on a potential UK launch, but given previous form, we wouldn’t expect this until well into 2015.

Read more: Amazon Fire Phone review

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