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Amazon Just Announced the Touchscreen Echo Nobody Asked For (gizmodo.com) 95

An anonymous reader writes: Amazon just announced a new grandmaster Echo gadget with the company's voice-assistant technology built in. It's called the Echo Show. It's got a touchscreen. It's got wi-fi and Bluetooth. It costs $230. And it's even creepier than its siblings. At its core, the Echo Show is just a regular Echo with a 7-inch screen. That screen lets you watch YouTube videos and see the weather forecast after you've asked for it. The new gadget also lets you make calls, video calls, and send text messages to other people using Echos or to mobile devices with the Alexa app installed. Thanks to Alexa integration with gadgets from Arlo and Ring, you can also see what your nanny cam sees. But check this out: the Echo Show also has a 5-megapixel, front-facing camera. So now, instead of your Echo just listening to your commands, it can watch you as well. The Echo Show joins the screen-free Echo Look as the second Amazon Echo device to feature a camera. On a sidenote, Amazon said it will bring the voice-calling ability to all other Echo devices.
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Amazon Just Announced the Touchscreen Echo Nobody Asked For

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  • This could be a boon to the economy! How many streaming web cams could Amazon Video host? Read your EULA carefully because participation might not be optional.

    • by shmlco ( 594907 )

      They certainly didn't waste any money on design, did they? It kind of looks like a plastic "Future Phone" you could have bought at RadioShack back in the day...

    • Read your EULA carefully because participation might not be optional.

      I've no use for such a device, but note that cellophane tape is pretty cheap, and does a wonderful job of fuzzing a webcam while still providing something in the way of an image to transmit. Hope they enjoy the sight of that...

    • Reminds me of that cheap hotel where the porn channel was just a video of me standing around naked with my dick in hand, watching tv.
  • by klingens ( 147173 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2017 @01:28PM (#54385515)

    We need a TV sized Echo with display so we can call it Telescreen.

    Everyone needs one, at least all party members.

    • by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2017 @01:38PM (#54385603)

      Chalk this one up with the Fire Phone and, in the near future, the Echo Look as yet another Amazon hardware device destined to fail.

      After I heard about the Echo Look, I presented the idea of it to my non-technical, "normal" wife in a positive light, trying to frame it as a good thing, just to see how she'd react. When she suggested without any prodding on my part that it could be a bit creepy, I gave her the Amazon talking points and kept moving along, hoping to gloss over those details, but to no avail. By the end of the description she was so creeped out by the very notion of the product that she made it clear she would never allow one in the house. To say the least, she was quite glad when I dropped the charade and made it clear I was on the same page as her.

      I don't get why Amazon keeps making these things, given that both technical people and "normal people" find these sorts of products incredibly creepy.

      • by swb ( 14022 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2017 @01:52PM (#54385721)

        My 12 year old son thinks talking computers are the bomb. He always asks if we can get an Echo or a Google Home whenever he sees the commercials. If he gets ahold of an iPhone, he will go to town asking Siri questions. It's his default method of looking things up.

        (No, he doesn't have his own phone, and no I don't encourage and actively discourage it so much my wife thinks I'm an asshole about it).

        I always explain that these things are always listening and it's like having a stranger in our house listening to everything we say. Totally not OK.

        But I think their real goal isn't adults who were raised reading 1984 in school. It's kids, who think that talking to corporate electronic systems is normal and have no sense of electronic privacy.

        • You may well be right, I'm afraid.

        • by Bodhammer ( 559311 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2017 @02:12PM (#54385891)
          Marty DiBergi: (quoting a review) "This tasteless cover is a good indication of the lack of musical invention within. The musical growth of this band cannot even be charted. They are treading water in a sea of retarded sexuality and bad poetry."

          Nigel Tufnel: That's just nitpicking, innit?
          -Spinal Tap
        • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

          Young kids don't have a great sense of privacy. They learn that as they get older. As soon as it occurs to them that the echo, or the shared home phone line, or the neighbour, might be reporting on them to mom or dad, they learn about privacy really quickly.

          The idea of a computer that can listen has been cool for a really long time. The issue now that we can finally do it in a useful way seems to be that all the companies providing these things think they should be in "the cloud." The processing demands

        • I'm in my 30s and do the same thing.

          I *know* they're always listening. If the NSA wants to hang out with me and my wife for the most part, come along. Back when I first started saying stuff like that it was tinfoil material.

          The difference is that I go out of my way to not be heard or seen when I don't want to be heard or seen. Fitting in with the norm will raise less red flags than being completely off grid.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Just Some Guy ( 3352 )

          Apple's Siri is much better than Amazon Echo for this. It listens and processes audio locally to detect you saying "Hey Siri". Only after that does it start recording. I just verified this by putting my iPhone 6S Plus into airplane mode and saying "Hey Siri". That got me a "Siri not available" popup.

          I'm perfectly fine with my voice being sent to Apple after I've asked them to process my commands, so long as it never goes to them before I've explicitly asked my phone to start listening to me.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Umm.... that's exactly the same way the Echo and all other Alexa devices work. They only transmit audio after the wake word is spoken, until the end of your utterance. This comes up in every single story on Alexa and Echo here on Slashdot, and this has been posted a zillion times here.

            The wake word engine runs locally. Amazon does not transmit audio until you say "Alexa" or whatever your configured wake word is, full stop.

        • You may think differently if your son does something like this xkcd comic. https://www.xkcd.com/1807/ [xkcd.com]
      • ... I don't get why Amazon keeps making these things, given that both technical people and "normal people" find these sorts of products incredibly creepy.

        Amazon knows that familiarity breeds indifference, not contempt. Even if this one product fails to gain traction, they'll keep pushing similar stuff, because they know they're likely to succeed at some point.

        It's all about creating a culture and a set of expectations. That's why I laugh at people who say they're not affected by advertising because they don't choose products based on the ads they see. They don't get that it's not really about getting them to buy a specific product. The over-arching goal of a

  • Wow. It can almost do what a smartphone can.

    • I'm pretty sure the primary motivation for putting in a touchscreen is that the Echo is really limited with a voice-only interface. For anything complicated, it tells you to use their linked App.

      For example, it can add something (approximating what) you said to a shopping list or to-do list, but it cannot remove them. for that you need to go to the App.

      It can't handle questions or requests with more than one result. For example, it can play a song by name, but God help you if the library contains multiple c

  • Amazon should just be making theses things free and REQUIRED with your amazon prime account.

    • by Kohath ( 38547 )

      No, people aren't the product at Amazon. Amazon isn't primarily an advertising company like Google and Facebook. Amazon sells you retail items at a profit.

      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        For now. There was a story last week about how Amazon wants to get into advertising in a big way.

        • There was a story last week about how Amazon wants to get into advertising in a big way.

          I'm sorry, but Amazon has been into advertising in a big way for a very long time. What do you think all those "people who bought what you just bought also bought ..." and "recommendations based on your purchase/viewing history" things are if not highly targeted advertising that you cannot opt out of and cannot shut off?

          • by Kohath ( 38547 )

            It's not advertising for 3rd parties. Amazon wants you to buy stuff from them because they sell it at a markup.

            The "people are the product" companies are companies that don't primarily sell you stuff, like Facebook and Google.

            • It's not advertising for 3rd parties.

              Uhh, yeah, I see ads for other sites while on Amazon. And ads is ads, whether it's for someone elses product or your own.

          • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

            From Amazon's financial statements, which are freely available (http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=97664&p=irol-sec#14806946), most of their revenue comes from actual product sales. Their advertising revenue is comparatively very small.

            Most of what you describe is Amazon trying to convince you to buy more stuff from amazon. While that might be annoying, it's not the abusive "you are the product" advertising the OP was talking about.

            Contrast with companies like Google, that make very little on

            • most of their revenue comes from actual product sales. Their advertising revenue is comparatively very small.

              Exactly how much do they pay themselves to show ads for products they sell? If they pay themselves for showing such ads, those costs will be a direct offset to the revenue they make from paying themselves, and thus show up as 0 in the profit and loss statements.

              Most of what you describe is Amazon trying to convince you to buy more stuff from amazon.

              Yes. Advertising.

              Amazon, at least at present, is an electronic store that dabbles in a bit of advertising.

              Considering that amount of space on their pages that consists of advertising, I'd say "dabbles" is a horrendous understatement. I've seen advertiser supported content that doesn't have as many ads as a typical Amazon page.

      • by DogDude ( 805747 )
        Amazon sells you retail items at a profit.

        No, they don't. They sell things at cost or at a loss. They do take 30% from everybody else selling through them, though.
  • Most people want to give the finger to the Echo, not finger a touchscreen on the Echo.
    • by rdorn ( 2729595 )
      Their sales say otherwise. I use the echo daily and love it. Its super convenient to talk to my alarm system, play music, and ask simple questions. I might buy this device too, there's a handful of situations where echo directs you to the echo app, and its annoying. I'd rather just have it pull up the info form. As far as the camera goes, I already have xbox kinect and playstation camera watching my every move. I have no expectation of privacy, and frankly very little shame. I will start to worry whe
  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2017 @01:44PM (#54385655)

    It's funny, Back as far as the 1960s we saw previews for video phones, but reaction has almost always been flat. Initially it certainly would have been expensive, but had video phones become popular the sheer economy of scale probably would have brought prices down.

    The only time I've seen video phones regularly used has been in the workplace, and basically as a test/pilot. Instead of conventional VOIP voice-only phones, a few employees were provided with models that could also do video. Even with this capability though, it's pretty rare that video conveys any additional useful information compared to just audio. Both callers are acquainted with the other so it's not like it's some kind of get-to-know-you exercise, and often the brief phone call is there to clarify something that was discussed by e-mail, where it's simpler to have the back-and-forth exchange to quickly clarify the matter.

    The home might actually be a better medium for video chat, especially for loved-ones that are long-distance to each other and rarely get to see each other, but in the home the use of the video call requires the parties to maintain the level of decency that they feel is appropriate for being seen, while audio-only doesn't have that restriction. That's before even considering the privacy issues.

    We've had laptops with the capability for a decade, we've had broadband market penetration for fifteen years, but apparently people don't want to appear on-camera to other people or else they want control more than the vendors are willing to provide.

    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      Maybe you don't have a lot of relatives? Mine all love Skype and FaceTime. I also do a fair amount of consulting and collaborating with people around the world, and many of those people, particularly Europeans, like Skype video calls.

      • by TWX ( 665546 )

        Actually I do have a lot of relatives, like my dad was from a family of the better part of twenty children (guess that since the farm didn't have electricity my grandparents found other ways to keep themselves occuppied) but most of them have other things to do with their time besides video-chat.

        My wife could benefit from video chat with her parents, but they don't even have a computer let alone Internet service, and aren't about to pay for a service like that. They only barely use the simplified phone wit

        • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

          Different types of people I guess. I see a lot of people using video phones in both their personal and professional lives. They don't call them video phones, of course. They call them smartphones, tablets and notebooks. Or in business, "videoconferencing."

          My parents are retired, in their sixties, and they and their siblings and friends like to video chat. My mother didn't really use her dumb phone much, and my father didn't ever have one, but as soon as smartphones became reasonably capable they each ha

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2017 @01:50PM (#54385689)

    I suspect the people who think it's a great idea to have an always-on microphone in their house will not suddenly start objecting just because a camera is added to the device.

  • Why can't companies/projects stick to what they were initially created for? C'mon, Amazon. First it was the Kindle (great product), then you just *had* to turn it into a full featured tablet. Now this?

    • by Pulzar ( 81031 )

      First it was the Kindle (great product), then you just *had* to turn it into a full featured tablet. Now this?

      Kindle is still alive and well, and better than ever. Having more options is not a bad thing.

    • by ndixon ( 184723 )

      E-readers are niche products. They always were. The market's not big enough to stick with one product
      It makes sense to build other products that reach other customers, especially if they can use the same branding to help the product along.

      Look how many companies were making e-readers 5-10 years ago who've given up or are allowing the product to wither and die: Sony gave up, Samsung, B&N (they never really tried outside the US and soon abandoned customers they had in the UK and EU).

      Look how many customer

  • Amazon just announced the touchscreen Echo nobody asked for.

    Nobody asked for the screen-less Echo either, so it's business as usual for Amazon.

    P.S.: E-ink has amazing new color displays! We want a color e-paper Kindle already!

    • by Pulzar ( 81031 )

      Nobody asked for the screen-less Echo either, so it's business as usual for Amazon.

      ..and yet it's selling quite well. I guess you sometimes have to come up with products that general public hasn't thought of?

  • Sony Dash failed. Funnily enough it terminates in July 2017. Chumby never took off. Amazon sells a $49 tablet but they think a $230 device is a good idea? Vidcam was a smart idea about 20 years ago, not sure it's needed now. I'm not entirely opposed to the device, but even $199 would seem alot, you could just get a $200 Chormebook. Maybe this is just an early adopter tax and it will be $149 this holiday? I can imagine this selling over the holiday for $149 for gifts even if people didn't know why they were
  • by computational super ( 740265 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2017 @03:05PM (#54386393)

    that nobody asked for

    Actually, the CIA asked.

  • Reduce the probability of a drop.. slap on a GadgetGrip Max!
  • Yeah, people don't want this, they want a faster horse. Who's the moron that came up with this automobile thing? It's totally stupid.

  • New Coke, Zune, Facebook phone, Fire phone, Twitter Peak, Nexus Q, Echo Touch.

  • Why is google lagging behind here? If google has a touch/tap/voice activated assistant that was as good as amazon echo, on the phone, we wouldn't be having this discussion. You don't need to have a permanently listening/seeing device, you can activate it with just a push of a button on the device that you have handy anyway.

    On the other side, Amazon echo can easily build the wakeup word detection and the rule engine right into the device without the need to go to the cloud every time. Most of the echo owner

  • That has got to be one of the luddite article in years. The author has to be someone who is completely tech ignorant.
    They talk about how it cannot work as a baby monitor and then not allow someone to eavesdrop. Really simple with roles. Then it goes one on other claims which are not based on any provided information but the non-technical author cannot understand how some technology would implement it.
  • Seriously, this needs to be on an incline so that they camera is looking at the ceiling and top part of a wall.
    But, I hope that Google is smart enough to create a clone in which the camera and display are separate.
  • A listening device with a screen. GENIUS!
  • Did you see the video commercial? MY GOD, I have never seen such a bad thing. American marketing plain sucks. It looks like 1980 commercials.

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