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Alexa, Smart Home Speakers Get Popular in India

Echo Plus has come a long distance in terms of look and feel.

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Google , US, Alexa, Amazon, Drones, e-commerce
The logo of Amazon, online retailer is seen at the company logistics center in Lauwin-Planque, France. VOA

 Smart home speakers are steadily gaining ground in India and Amazon’s Echo range has been appreciated the most so far, followed by Google Home.

Led by Amazon Echo, with 59 per cent market share, the smart speakers category in India grew 43 per cent in the second quarter (July-September) this year, according to an International Data Corporation (IDC) report.

Analysts see the nascent smartphone market in India growing beyond entertainment and Amazon, with its top-of-the-line voice-based Alexa platform, has brought the second iteration of its Echo smart home speaker to the country that is able to control connected devices around you and does not need third-party support.

The Indian smart home devices market which consists of connected lights, smart speakers, connected thermostats, smart TVs, home monitoring/security products and digital media adapters saw a healthy year-on-year growth of 107 per cent to hit 1.4 million shipments in the second quarter.

Google , US, Alexa
In this March 2, 2016, file photo, David Limp, Amazon Senior Vice President of Devices, pushes down on an Echo Dot in San Francisco. VOA

Let us see what the Rs 14,999 All-New Echo Plus (2nd Gen) with a smarter Alexa has to offer.

The top has four buttons — two to adjust volume, one to wake up Alexa and one mute button — along with seven ergonomically-placed microphones.

This time, the 780-gram device goes beyond reading daily news, playing music, announcing weather or ordering food.

The All-New Echo Plus comes with a built-in smart hub that helps you set up compatible Zigbee-enabled smart home devices directly, just using your voice.

Amazon Alexa. Flickr
Amazon Alexa. Flickr

Zigbee is a wireless technology developed to enable low-cost, low-power wireless machine-to-machine (M2M) and IoT (Internet of Things) networks.

Just ask Alexa to discover your devices and begin controlling compatible lights, plugs, locks, thermostats, sensors and in-wall switches.

For example, Echo Plus connected directly to Philips Hue light-bulbs.

Insert the bulb into a receptacle and tell Alexa to discover new devices. Within no time, she will throw up the name of the device (in this case, the light-bulb).

Start controlling the device, like “switch on the light Alexa”.

You can also control compatible lights and plugs from Syska, TP-Link and Oakter.

With seven microphones, beam-forming technology and noise cancellation, Echo Plus heard us from almost all directions.

Google , US, Alexa
Alexa, which comes with Echo speakers and other gadgets, starts recording after it hears its name or another “wake word” selected by users. Pixabay

Housing new speakers powered by Dolby and enhanced back volume, the bass felt stronger and the sound crisp and clear.

One feature that is worth mentioning is the equaliser (EQ) feature that allows users to personalise sounds by adjusting the bass, mid-range and treble.

Just ask Alexa to increase or decrease a specific band like “turn up the bass” or “decrease the treble” and she does it for you.

We could also made adjustments through the Alexa app.

The new Echo Plus also has a temperature sensor, making it possible for Alexa to tell the temperature in any room (it works with a compatible smart home thermostat).

With the device, call or message your friends and members in the family who also has an Echo device or the Alexa App.

Google , US, Alexa
The Alexa Echo Dot devices include the official Saint Louis University logo and are equipped with specific skills to provide information on local events and campus life. VOA

Simply ask “Alexa, how do I set up calling?” and get started.

What doesn’t work?

Alexa is getting smarter by the day and we will soon have more local functionalities in it. At the moment, the device gives the best smart speaker experience.

Also Read: Snapchat’s Camera May Help You Shop at Amazon

Conclusion: From a tall, metal cylinder look in the first generation, Echo Plus has come a long distance in terms of look and feel. The second-generation Echo Plus with a far more intelligent Alexa is a real upgrade if you have experienced the first generation Echo. (IANS)

Next Story

Amazon is Being Sued for Recording Children’s Voices with Alexa

The complaint claims that children cannot consent to be recorded

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Lawsuit, Amazon, Alexa
The woman has alleged the e-commerce giant for illegally recording children. Flickr

In yet another lawsuit, Amazon has been sued by a Massachusetts woman, who on behalf of her 10-year-old daughter and children from eight other states, is seeking class-action status to sue the e-commerce giant.

Filed in a Federal court in Seattle, the lawsuit alleges Amazon of saving ‘voice prints’ of millions of children by unlawfully recording their conversations around Alexa-enabled smart devices, Vox news reported on Friday.

The woman has alleged the e-commerce giant for illegally recording children and adding them to “a massive database of billions of voice recordings containing the private details of millions of Americans”.

The complaint claims that children cannot consent to be recorded and do not comprehend the “potentially invasive uses of big data by a company the size of Amazon” and that they “use Alexa without any understanding or warning that Amazon is recording and voice-printing them”, the report said.

Lawsuit, Amazon, Alexa
The lawsuit alleges Amazon of saving ‘voice prints’ of millions of children by unlawfully recording their conversations around Alexa-enabled smart devices. Pixabay

The complainant says she bought an Alexa Echo Dot device in 2018 and was not given reason to believe that her child would be recorded.

“Customers set up their Echo devices and we give them easy-to-use tools to manage them, including the ability to review and delete the voice recordings associated with their account,” the report quoted an Amazon spokesperson as saying.

The spokesperson also highlighted a company blog-post that discusses ‘Amazon FreeTime’ — a dedicated service launched in 2012 to help parents manage the ways their kids interact with technology, including limiting screen time.

However, this is not the first time that the e-commerce giant was accused of violating kids’ privacy with Alexa.

Earlier in May, US Senators and a group of 19 consumer and public health advocates accused Amazon for recording and saving conversations that take place around its smart speakers, urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate into the case.

Fighting privacy concerns and data collection suspicions, later in May, Amazon added support for new voice commands to let users ask Alexa to delete previous voice recordings.

To ensure security and privacy of users, the company is also launching ‘Alexa Privacy Hub’ which is supposed to offer an easy way to learn how Alexa works and find privacy controls.