Amazon is finally ready to give Alexa a face—sort of.
Today, the ecommerce giant unveiled the Echo Show, the next generation of its voice assistant-enabled speaker. It will come with a seven-inch touchscreen display. The Show, which is scheduled for release on June 28, will be available for about the same price as the company’s flagship Amazon Echo device.
While it has all of the same features as the Echo, the Echo Show’s screen and front-facing camera will allow users to make voice-activated video calls or watch videos from YouTube, newscasts and security cameras. (Last month, Amazon also recently released its own voice-enabled video camera called the Echo Look.)
While other hardware devices like Google Home have gained in popularity over the past year, Alexa seems to still have the most hold on households. According to a report by eMarketer, Amazon has around 70 percent of the market share. The next most popular device is Google Home with 23.8 percent of the market, followed by devices from Lenovo, LG, Harmon, Mattel and others.
This year, around 35.6 million people in the U.S. will use a voice-activated devices at least once a month, according to eMarketer, a 130 percent increase over 2016. Virtual assistants in general are also catching on, with 60.6 million Americans using Siri, Cortana or others at least once a month. (The heaviest users are 25- to 34-year-olds, who make up around a quarter of all users in the U.S.)
Agencies that have been developing skills for Alexa and other voice assistants say the introduction of the Echo Show could help ease some of the frustrations and limitations that come with only having a voice as a guide.
“The visual component of the Show brings new context to a voice experience, complimenting it by adding visual components when needed,” said Greg Hedges, director of strategy at Rain. “For example, seeing a map when you ask for the closest Chinese restaurant, viewing a list of options when you want a blue shirt, a visual to go along with a recipe you’re hearing, perhaps making it that much more appetizing [or] help you decide if your kids will eat it.”
In some ways, the Echo Show is reminiscent of the small television sets—without Wi-Fi, of course—that were popular in many kitchens in the ’90s and early 2000s. It’s also similar to the old tried-and-true AT&T commercials from 1993 that seem to have predicted everything from ebooks to GPS and plenty of other things that are now a reality. (Others have also noted the aesthetic similarity between kitchen screens back then and now.)