Amazon at work on new Echo to tackle HomePod, other high-end smartspeakers

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Amazon is reportedly preparing a higher-end Echo to compete with the audio quality of smartspeakers like the Apple HomePod, Sonos One, and Google Home Max.

The second-generation Echo Plus.
The second-generation Echo Plus.


The product will have at least four tweeters and ship by 2020, Bloomberg sources said. Prototypes are claimed to be cylindrical like current Echos, but wider to accommodate extra components.

Amazon has so far only tip-toed into the high-end audio space with products like the Echo Sub and Echo Link Amp. Instead the focus has been on making its Alexa voice assistant ubiquitous in the home, available in many different formats and compatible with everything from TVs and thermostats to security systems.

The rest of the Echo lineup will reportedly receive a minor refresh this fall. Work is meanwhile continuing on an Alexa-controlled robot, nicknamed "Vesta," which was originally expected to be announced this year but which sources say isn't ready for mass production. Amazon is allegedly diverting engineers from other projects to help.

Vesta prototypes are waist-high, moving around using wheels and an assortment of navigation cameras. The purpose of the robot is unclear, but sources speculated that it could be a mobile Alexa, following people into rooms where there aren't any Echo speakers.

The HomePod remains Apple's one and only smartspeaker, sold primarily on audio quality. The company has in fact had to lower its price to $299 and expand Siri functionality to compete, yet it still controls a marginal portion of the global smartspeaker market, dwarfed by both Amazon and Google.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    bigtdsbigtds Posts: 86member
    Too late. It will be hard to compete with Sonos on sound and features. Since you can have either Alexa or Google on Sonos and a vast array of other music sources, why buy anything else?
  • Reply 2 of 13
    Oh great (not). Amazon developing a new and improved 'spy in the home' that you have to pay for.

    AppleExposed
  • Reply 3 of 13
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,596member
    Here is what I find impressive with the Homepod. We all know if you have two Homepod they will work in conjunction with one another and produce true stereo sound. In my family room I have surround sound system and have my ATV 4 connected to it. Recent I selected to play music onboth the Homepod and the ATV 4 and I was amazed that the Homepod was working in conjunction with the surround sound system. You could not tell there were two sources of the music, Homepod stayed in phase with the surround sound system.

    As we know Apple was late to the party but show everyone how it should be done. 

    Let see if Amazon can get this right as long as you are interested in having Amazon collecting your audio and someone listening to what you say at a later date. Can not wait for the Police to subpoena Amazon to turn over any recording they have for a specific person or house. Or maybe they will get court order to have the devices turned into a listening device for the police. 
  • Reply 4 of 13
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,303member
    Despite the eavesdropping potential of any Google or Amazon product, competition is good.

    There are people who are and won't be concerned about Amazon and Google's data collection practices. Their devices are and probably will be priced the same or cheaper than the HomePod. Alexa is quite superior to Siri in many ways, at least for the time being.

    I only have one HomePod at the moment, but plan on getting another one. I like that they will 'pair up' for true stereo. An ATV is yet to grace my room, but it's on the list. Good to know the HP will play nice with it.

    I was reading last night, with room lights low and not a sound in the house, when the HP lit up and a got a couple of seconds of swirling light. The HP has done this from time to time, sometimes probably triggered by something it 'heard' on the TV resembling the trigger.

    This is the second time it's been dead quiet and Siri has woken up and taken a quick listen. I'm curious as to why and if anybody else has that experience.


    OnPartyBusiness
  • Reply 5 of 13
    jcs2305jcs2305 Posts: 758member
    bigtds said:
    Too late. It will be hard to compete with Sonos on sound and features. Since you can have either Alexa or Google on Sonos and a vast array of other music sources, why buy anything else?
    Because I personally don't want Alexa or Google Assistant products in my home ... period. That is why I bought something else.  My personal collection and Apple Music are more than enough to fulfill my needs.
    AppleExposed
  • Reply 6 of 13
    iOS_Guy80iOS_Guy80 Posts: 173member
    Oh great (not). Amazon developing a new and improved 'spy in the home' that you have to pay for.

    New and improved eavesdropping.
  • Reply 7 of 13
    jcs2305jcs2305 Posts: 758member
    macgui said:
    Despite the eavesdropping potential of any Google or Amazon product, competition is good.

    There are people who are and won't be concerned about Amazon and Google's data collection practices. Their devices are and probably will be priced the same or cheaper than the HomePod. Alexa is quite superior to Siri in many ways, at least for the time being.

    I only have one HomePod at the moment, but plan on getting another one. I like that they will 'pair up' for true stereo. An ATV is yet to grace my room, but it's on the list. Good to know the HP will play nice with it.

    I was reading last night, with room lights low and not a sound in the house, when the HP lit up and a got a couple of seconds of swirling light. The HP has done this from time to time, sometimes probably triggered by something it 'heard' on the TV resembling the trigger.

    This is the second time it's been dead quiet and Siri has woken up and taken a quick listen. I'm curious as to why and if anybody else has that experience.


    I have only ever had Siri come on if there was a sound trigger..  I will hear ... mmhmm while we are talking?   I have however had music start playing in the middle of the night when everyone was asleep and I was coming down to let the dog out!  Hahaha Too many ghost videos on Youtube prior to that.. I was freaked out to say the least.

    Listening is one thing and data collections is another.. Are you saying that Siri is waking and collecting data to do something with?  If you are dead quiet what is the concern? what could be collected at that point? Could just be a little bug..
  • Reply 8 of 13
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,709member
    macgui said:
    Despite the eavesdropping potential of any Google or Amazon product, competition is good.

    There are people who are and won't be concerned about Amazon and Google's data collection practices. Their devices are and probably will be priced the same or cheaper than the HomePod. Alexa is quite superior to Siri in many ways, at least for the time being.

    I only have one HomePod at the moment, but plan on getting another one. I like that they will 'pair up' for true stereo. An ATV is yet to grace my room, but it's on the list. Good to know the HP will play nice with it.

    I was reading last night, with room lights low and not a sound in the house, when the HP lit up and a got a couple of seconds of swirling light. The HP has done this from time to time, sometimes probably triggered by something it 'heard' on the TV resembling the trigger.

    This is the second time it's been dead quiet and Siri has woken up and taken a quick listen. I'm curious as to why and if anybody else has that experience.


    If it lit up it thought it heard "Hey Siri" in all likelihood altho you cannot be certain. Could be some hardware fault but no way to know. 

    All the current smart speakers are sometimes triggered to "listen" even tho no wake phrase was actually uttered. That's one of the important reasons that Apple/Amazon/Google all have humans transcribing user conversations to better understand why it happens and eventually eliminate most of the erroneous triggering. Correcting misunderstood requests is of course another need requiring human intervention. 

    With Google and Alexa you can go into your account and review what their voice assistants thought was uttered. Certainly could assist you with knowing how often it happens to you and perhaps even why. In my case my wife has a habit of calling out to our dog "Hey Boo-boo", which of course very often but not always results in the closest Home speaker activating for a few seconds waiting for a command/input after hearing 'Hey Google". FWIW it seems to happening less often tho. 

    Apple doesn't currently allow a user to review what Siri heard, and may not ever, so a bit more difficult to know that trigger errors are occuring or how often unless you happen to be looking at your device at the time, and obviously no way to see what it thought it heard so you might better understand why. In your case you would have to depend on Apple stumbling upon the error sometime after your voice recording had been uploaded to them and forwarded for human transcription, and a human determining it WAS an error and Apple voice engineers deciding how best to approach it.

    ...Or if it seems to happen somewhat regularly in an otherwise silent room you might want to return it under warranty for a new one. My guess is Siri is just misunderstanding something it heard. 
  • Reply 9 of 13
    AppleExposedAppleExposed Posts: 1,127unconfirmed, member
    bigtds said:
    Too late. It will be hard to compete with Sonos on sound and features. Since you can have either Alexa or Google on Sonos and a vast array of other music sources, why buy anything else?

    I think their expensive echo will fail(by Apple standards) because they already marketed their crap as free or cheap.

    But I think they can beat Sonos in a way because they have Amazon.com. This is the reason Echo even got popular. I'm always bombarded by their crap when on that site. If Amazon begins to compete with higher end speakers it makes me wonder if Alexa will be the new Android where many manufacturers use it but none want it causing the bold to create their own Siri knockoffs.

    I can see this happening:

    "Hey Sonos"
    "Yo LG"
    "Hello Huawei"
    "Hi Xiaomi"

    If these aren't already happening...
  • Reply 10 of 13
    If they are developing a waist high robot it better be more than a speaker and microphone. I'd want it to have a vacuum and a beer fridge built in
  • Reply 11 of 13
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,303member
    jcs2305 said:
    Listening is one thing and data collections is another.. Are you saying that Siri is waking and collecting data to do something with?  If you are dead quiet what is the concern? what could be collected at that point? Could just be a little bug.. 
    What I'm saying is what I said:
    This is the second time it's been dead quiet and Siri has woken up and taken a quick listen. I'm curious as to why and if anybody else has that experience.

    There's nothing in that statement that says Siri is collecting data. There is nothing in that statement that says concern. Reading is easy. Apparently reading comprehension, not so much. I am curious as to why Siri wakes up  without a trigger and what she's doing.


    gatorguy said:
    If it lit up it thought it heard "Hey Siri" in all likelihood altho you cannot be certain.

    I can be certain it didn't hear anything because as I said:

    This is the second time it's been dead quiet and Siri has woken up and taken a quick listen.
    gatorguy said:
    All the current smart speakers are sometimes triggered to "listen" even tho no wake phrase was actually uttered. 

    You have a link or actual source to support that? Who is doing the triggering and why? 

    gatorguy said:
    ...Or if it seems to happen somewhat regularly in an otherwise silent room... My guess is Siri is just misunderstanding something it heard. 

    Two times is not somewhat regularly. It's just two times. As this was in a silent room, no, it's not misunderstanding something it didn't hear.

  • Reply 12 of 13
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,709member
    macgui said:
    jcs2305 said:
    Listening is one thing and data collections is another.. Are you saying that Siri is waking and collecting data to do something with?  If you are dead quiet what is the concern? what could be collected at that point? Could just be a little bug.. 
    What I'm saying is what I said:
    This is the second time it's been dead quiet and Siri has woken up and taken a quick listen. I'm curious as to why and if anybody else has that experience.

    There's nothing in that statement that says Siri is collecting data. There is nothing in that statement that says concern. Reading is easy. Apparently reading comprehension, not so much. I am curious as to why Siri wakes up  without a trigger and what she's doing.


    gatorguy said:
    If it lit up it thought it heard "Hey Siri" in all likelihood altho you cannot be certain.

    I can be certain it didn't hear anything because as I said:

    This is the second time it's been dead quiet and Siri has woken up and taken a quick listen.
    gatorguy said:
    All the current smart speakers are sometimes triggered to "listen" even tho no wake phrase was actually uttered. 

    You have a link or actual source to support that? Who is doing the triggering and why? 

    gatorguy said:
    ...Or if it seems to happen somewhat regularly in an otherwise silent room... My guess is Siri is just misunderstanding something it heard. 

    Two times is not somewhat regularly. It's just two times. As this was in a silent room, no, it's not misunderstanding something it didn't hear.

    If Siri woke up it was for one of two reasons:
    - A hardware fault or
    - Erroneous misinterpretation of some sound being recognized as the trigger phrase.

    In either event whatever is being said or whatever sound is being produced, even if none at all, is being relayed to Apple servers for processing. Obviously if no commands can be discerned from that voice recording then Siri may not offer any response to you and the light will go off. But if it lit up there was a data flow transmission consisting of whatever sounds it heard back to Apple servers. That's what the light is telling you: Active recording is taking place, and every recording is uploaded, processed, and actioned via Apple servers. 

    There is no person on the other end turning your device on. It's just making a mistake, either thru a hardware issue or by algorithm but yes the resultant recording is sent to Apple, and yes it may end up with a human listener transcribing it in an effort to understand what if anything was heard. That's a good thing as it improves the service. 
    edited July 13
  • Reply 13 of 13
    bigtdsbigtds Posts: 86member
    bigtds said:
    Too late. It will be hard to compete with Sonos on sound and features. Since you can have either Alexa or Google on Sonos and a vast array of other music sources, why buy anything else?

    I think their expensive echo will fail(by Apple standards) because they already marketed their crap as free or cheap.

    But I think they can beat Sonos in a way because they have Amazon.com. This is the reason Echo even got popular. I'm always bombarded by their crap when on that site. If Amazon begins to compete with higher end speakers it makes me wonder if Alexa will be the new Android where many manufacturers use it but none want it causing the bold to create their own Siri knockoffs.

    I can see this happening:

    "Hey Sonos"
    "Yo LG"
    "Hello Huawei"
    "Hi Xiaomi"

    If these aren't already happening...
    Sonos already has Alexa on it if you enable it. We use it every day to play music and control home automation. I don't think Amazon provides anything more than what I already use on Sonos. Nothing from Amazon currently sounds anywhere near as good. I can't imagine that even their new product will sound better.
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