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Amazon announces new Echo products, including Alexa features

Amazon has launched a new line-up of Echo devices, enabling users to access Alexa at home in different ways, as well as a range of Alexa features.

The new devices include: new Echo featuring an updated fabric design and improved sound; Echo Dot with clock with a LED display that shows the time, outdoor temperature, timers, and alarms; and Echo Studio with five directional speakers for immersive sound, room adaptation technology, and a built-in smart home hub.

Amazon Alexa senior vice president Tom Taylor says, “We love hearing feedback from customers about how they use Alexa throughout their day - whether that’s listening to music, dropping in on a loved one, trying out a new recipe, or playing a game with the family.

“We hope these new Echo devices will give customers even more ways to access Alexa - whether that’s through the best-sounding Echo yet - Echo Studio, a reimagined Echo and Echo Dot.”

The next-generation Echo, available for $179, features an updated fabric design with colour options including Twilight Blue, Charcoal, Heather Grey, and Sandstone.

Echo has the same audio architecture as Echo Plus, including a 3-inch woofer and increased back volume focusing on achieving stronger bass, and clearer mids and highs.

Echo Dot, available for $109, has a clock and adds a simple LED display which automatically adjusts based on the brightness of the room. Users can see the time or ask to see the outdoor temperature, or to set a morning alarm or pasta timer. Plus, you can tap the top of the device to snooze an alarm.

Echo Studio, available for $359, has a 5.25-inch woofer and 330W of peak power to help produce better bass by using the bass port at the bottom to maximize airflow and bass output from the woofer.

Echo Studio has a 1-inch tweeter and three 2-inch midrange speakers that deliver midranges and higher frequencies. In addition, it has a 24-bit DAC and a power amplifier with 100 kHz of bandwidth for high-res music playback. According to Amazon, Echo Studio also automatically senses the acoustics of your space and fine-tunes audio playback.

Alongside a new lineup of Echo devices, Amazon also announced ways that Alexa has new features including recommending routines, discussing her responses and auto-deleting voice recordings.

Now Alexa is able to recommend routines users may want to set up based on their daily habits. For example, if a customer sets their alarm for 6am and then asks for the weather every day, Alexa will suggest setting up a routine so that the alarm is always set and the weather plays as soon as it goes off.

When Alexa asks if the user would like a routine set-up, they can say “yes,” and the routine will be established.

According to Amazon, Alexa will soon offer two new voice-based features that provide customers with more transparency over the responses they get.

If a customer is curious to understand what Alexa heard when you asked her to tell you the news or play a specific song, customers will be able to say, “Alexa, tell me what you heard,” and Alexa will read back the most recent voice request. Users will also be able to ask, “Alexa, why did you do that?” and Alexa will provide a short explanation about her response to your last voice request. This feature will be rolling out this year, Amazon says.

Alexa and Echo devices are built with privacy protections, according to the company. Earlier this year Amazon introduced the ability for customers to say, “Alexa, delete everything I said today,” and “Alexa, delete what I just said” to enable users to delete their recordings.

Auto-delete, available later 2019, will enable users to choose to have their voice recordings older than three or 18 months automatically deleted on an ongoing basis.

The new Echo devices are available for pre-order from Noel Leeming and JB Hi-Fi and will start shipping later this year.