Alexa calling Alexa.
According to sources, Amazon is looking to launch one or more Alexa-powered devices, this time containing an additional voice-calling feature. It may even include a feature allowing people to communicate with others at the end of another Alexa device, thus working as a new-age intercom system of sorts.
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Alexa is a part of Amazon’s Echo smart-system, a wireless streaming and speaking device that can control a range of internet-based actions by administering simple voice-based commands to Alexa. The system, according to Quartz, is priced at $180. The same report states that while the official sales numbers for Echo speakers haven’t been officially released by the company, estimates suggest that over five million have been purchased already.
The company’s plan to introduce voice-calling features to its smart speaker has been in the cards for quite some time now. A report by Wall Street Journal last month suggests that both Google and Amazon have been planning to upgrade their ‘Home’ and ‘Echo’ systems to include this feature, to be launched later this year. However, some details still remain a bit of a mystery. It is currently unknown if users will have to sync their own phone number and contacts with the device or create a new device-specific phone number.
While Amazon’s Echo is definitely popular in the markets today, it has been noted that most users turn to Alexa to carry out the most basic functions. Consequently, the new hardware, which was in beta testing last month, is possibly Amazon’s attempt to increase traction rates which, despite Alexa’s rising popularity, has not witness impressive usage of its ‘voice apps’.
The voice-calling feature should help manage this feat. However, considering the ‘always-listening’ feature of the devices, concerns regarding privacy of conversations and surveillance could also be a consequence here.
Sources have also claimed that Amazon is looking to build a ‘premium Echo-like speaker’ that contains a touch-screen display, and also enables a no-hands video-calling feature. This theory is fuelled by the fact that the company recently invested in a startup called Nucleus, which builds video-intercom, raising $5.6 million out of its Alexa fund for it, last year.
In a statement directed to Recode, a Nucleus spokesperson said that the startup “cannot speak to Amazon’s plans”. However, they said, “When we think about the future of connected devices within the home, Nucleus is focused on building the future of simple family communication. There are plenty of other video platforms out there, and will likely be many more, but none that let you see your loved ones in under a second with one simple tap or voice command.”
While Amazon has declined to comment on these developments for now, we can definitely expect news of its exciting launch(es) in the upcoming months. Are you excited? We definitely are!