Amazon's Echo Show smart speaker adds sight to sound.
The smart home speaker, which acts as a knowledge centre, with Alexa as in-house expert and Zigbee as a central hub to control home appliances, is an idea slightly ahead of its time in India. Why? Because the connected home is a nice enough concept -- but costly, if not messy to retrofit into an existing home. Indians hate to throw away things unless worn out and ready to collapse -- so how many of us are going to exchange things like lights, air conditioner, microwave or refrigerator for smarter versions, just so we can control them by shouting instructions. I'm guessing, hardly anyone.
Which is why In the 2 years or so that Amazon's Echo speakers have been available in India, the company has been stressing the superior brain of Alexa and her ability to understand English as we speak it here, rather than the connected appliance features. Echo has gone through 3 avatars: The flagship Rs 7999 unit, a more basic Rs 2299 version called Echo Dot and the Echo Plus which for Rs 14,999, includes the Zigbee control hub.
With appliance makers like Syska and Philips in lighting, D-Link and TP-Link in routers and major home appliance leaders, slowly adding Alexa-readiness, Amazon thinks the time has come to launch the fourth iteration of Echo. It has just brought Echo Show to India -- with a giant leap in functionality: adding sight to sound: a 10-inch high-definition display coupled with a 5-megapixel camera "eye" now supplementing the array of 8 microphones. In one fell swoop, the device adds a powerful visual dimension: watch music videos where earlier you just heard the tracks; see a trailer of the movie before heading to the multiplex with tickets booked by talking your instructions to Alexa; convert that weekly check-up phone call to daadimaa into a vibrant video call...
Like EchoPlus before it, Echo Show has the full smart hub feature but you may not be able to exploit it fully till smartness is built into more products -- and competing appliance makers adhere to a single standard. The ability to open a browser through speech is not new -- but now you can go to YouTube and watch a video on the 10-inch screen. Amazon keeps adding what it calls "skills" -- the ability to access a growing number of services by voice. At Rs 22, 999 Echo Show is pricier than its siblings -- by a big stretch. But if you consider they are throwing in vision with voice and if you aspire to 'smarten' your home sometime soon, this might be justified as a sensible future -proofing.