Amazon is reportedly working on a number of new products in new markets. The company is making a massive push in the direction of custom chipsets and interoperability between products. Between an Echo with a wall-mountable screen, a TV soundbar, more advanced car technology, and more wearable products, the company has a lot that it’s working on currently.
According to Bloomberg, the company is working on a lot of new technology at its Lab126 division, which is the division behind products like the original Echo and Alexa. Amazon is holding a launch event on September 28th for new devices and services, and some of these products may be announced then. Others may be launched next year, or even dropped entirely if they’re found to not have much promise.
Echo for Walls
The first product that the company is reportedly working on is a large Alexa-controlled Echo with a roughly 15-inch display. It can either be mounted on a wall or placed on a table with a stand, according to both internal documents and people familiar with the matter. It’s designed to be a smart-home control panel for appliances, lights, and locks, and also be used for tracking the likes of Amazon packages. It has a user interface for widgets like weather, timers, calendar appointments, and photos.
It’s designed for use in the kitchen and can help in viewing recipes or watching cooking how-to videos. It can also run third-party video streaming apps such as Netflix. According to the report, the company has also tested similar versions of it with a smaller display, and it’s expected to launch either in the fall, or next year. It’s part of the company’s push to improve upon devices like the Echo Show, as Amazon has found that customers engage more with devices that have screens, rather than audio-only smart speakers. This device is codenamed Hoya.
Amazon has reportedly been working on a home robot codenamed Vesta for a number of years. Apparently, its viability has drawn concerns from not only staff but Jeff Bezos as well, the company’s current chairman and co-founder. It uses the Alexa interface and was initially thought of as a security tool. Focus later changed to make it a part of Amazon’s Ring lineup. The company has already announced a flying security camera drone, and some staff has questioned if a robot with a screen that follows the user around would be useful.
Bloomberg expects that Vesta will cost a high price if it does ever launch. Early versions were expected to cost around $1,000, and Amazon has already tested prototypes inside of employee homes. One version had a roughly 7-inch display, while another had a 10-inch display that could adjust on its own. It followed a user around and reminded them of upcoming calendar events. Apparently, while its computer vision was effective, it did not have arms and could not operate stairs correctly.
Soundbars and cars
Amazon has been eyeing the release of a soundbar for TVs for a long time, and the company had originally wanted to launch it in 2021. However, given that the company normally announces products several months ahead of its shipping time, it’s unlikely that it will reach consumers by the end of the year. We may still see it at the company’s September 28th launch event, though.
Obviously, there are several soundbars already released that support Alexa. The Bose Smart Soundbar 900 is one such soundbar, and it launched at the start of September with both Google Assistant and Alexa support. However, Amazon believes that it can put a unique spin on the concept. The version it’s working on, codenamed Harmony, has a front-facing camera that would also allow customers to make video calls from their TVs. The company announced a line of low-cost smart TVs in early September.
In the automotive space, Amazon has been working on the second generation of its Echo Auto technology codenamed Marion. The currently released product pairs with a smartphone via Bluetooth and allows you to access Alexa through your car’s speakers. The second generation will have a new design and may be able to charge the user’s device wirelessly. Amazon is also exploring additional deals with other car manufacturers after partnering with Ford this year.
Speakers and wearables
Amazon isn’t planning any major changes to its Echo line until 2022, after redesigning the Echo Show, Dot, and standard Echo last year. However, after the launch of the Halo fitness tracker, the company is looking to make a bigger push in the wearables space. There have been discussions of a model geared towards kids, alongside a model aimed at senior citizens for detecting when they fall and other activities.
For the uninitiated, Halo is unique in its ability to track a wearer’s emotional state by listening to the tone of their voice, and also estimate a user’s body fat percentage by taking a three-dimensional render of their body. It has no display and is controlled entirely by your smartphone. It has an accelerometer, temperature sensor, heart rate monitor, two microphones, and a singular LED. The microphones can only be used for the voice tone feature and cannot be used for Alexa.
The company is also working on an Alexa-powered karaoke microphone and it was planned to be released this year, however, the team behind it disbanded. It also wants to add ultra-sound-based sensors to track temperature, sleep, snoring, breathing quality, and other health sensors to its devices. It’s unknown if these capabilities can be added to currently-existing products, or if they will show up in dedicated devices in the future.
Amazon has a team working on new custom chips for future Echo products, and also wants to align its software across multiple device categories. The company has taken inspiration from both Apple and Google, which have both created neural engine chipsets for their respective devices. Custom chips are already a major area of focus for Amazon Web Services (AWS) which has been using custom chipsets for years. The company is also looking to improve the interoperability to ensure its products work better together and wants to improve the cohesion between Alexa and Fire TV to better integrate Echo and TV devices.
Featured image: Amazon Echo Show