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Alexa now supports Multi-room audio

Alexa now supports Multi-room audio

Amazon announced and released today multi-room audio functionality for the Amazon Alexa family devices. This functionality allows you to synchronize music across devices and across rooms by grouping them. Such functionality has been available from other vendors for some time e.g. Sonos.

Amazon also announced the release of their SDK developer tools later this year for speaker companies like Sonos, Bose, Sound United and Samsung. Especially the last vendor will be interesting to watch as they just announced their own smart speaker to come out under the Samsung brand and they announced that it will be unique to differentiate the Samsung smart speaker against Amazon Alexa/Echo and Google Home or even the upcoming Apple Home Pod speaker later to be released this year.

 

You can now create groups to play music synchronized across multiple echo devices. When you create groups it will shortly stop playing music to synchronize those devices. Any connected Bluetooth speakers should synchronize as well so in theory you could have many speakers playing in total harmony. I will certainly test this functionality.

I am also waiting for the Sonos support for Alexa which now has a date. October 4th 2017 is when the support will be released assuming you accept the new Terms and Conditions from Sonos. That is a story by itself as outraged users express their frustration about privacy violations and Sonos expressing their view of providing clear rules and guidance of what data will get shared and no sensitive data will get shared with any 3rd party partner or vendor.

Anyhow… the good news is that multi-room audio is coming on multiple devices, support for Alexa/Echo is being added to more and more speakers giving the end users the benefit of better audio experiences in their homes.

Echo Show

Echo Show

Echo Show

The day after Microsoft announces their Alexa and Google Home competitor called “Invoke” based on Cortana’s voice engine, Amazon releases Echo Show as the latest member of the Alexa Echo Family.

Echo Show has a touch screen and also includes now a calling feature. You can not only control all your smart home devices with your voice as before, but now you are able to watch videos with your voice, place calls and send messages to other Echo member devices (Alexa, Dot) and everybody who has the free Alexa app on their Android or IOS phone.

Powered by Dolby, Echo Show is fine-tuned to deliver crisp vocals with dynamic bass response and expansive sound. Watch as the display comes alive to show song lyrics, custom stations, curated playlists, and album art with Amazon Music. Echo Show also connects to Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn—giving you voice control for all of your music. Echo Show is Bluetooth-enabled so you can stream other popular music services like Apple Music from your phone or tablet

Introducing a new way to be together more with the people who matter most. Make hands-free video calls to friends and family who have an Echo Show or the Alexa App. When you’re busy making dinner, just ask Alexa to place a call from your Echo Show to anyone with a supported Echo device or the Alexa App. You can also enable a new feature called Drop In for the special cases when you want to connect with your closest friends and family. For example, you can drop in to let the family know it’s time for dinner, see the baby’s nursery, or check in with a close relative.

With the Alexa App, conversations and contacts go where you go. When you’re away from home, use the app to make a quick call or send a message to your family’s Echo. Alexa calling and messaging is free.

For news and information you can see and hear, just ask Alexa for your video flash briefing from CNN, Bloomberg, and more. Curious about the latest movie trailers or a need a how-to video from YouTube? Just ask.

Echo Show helps keep you organized at home. Start a timer in the kitchen and watch as it counts down, or easily see and manage your family’s calendar. Sign in to the Alexa App to take your to-do and shopping lists with you. Just add an item to the list from home, and whoever is out shopping will see it added instantly on their Alexa App.

Equipped with eight microphones, beam-forming technology, and noise cancellation, Echo Show hears you from any direction–even while music is playing.

Echo Show Internals
Smart Home support
GoogleHome

GoogleHome

Google finally revealed more details around their Google Home assistant product on Oct 4th 2016. They also allow now pre-orders to be placed for their official release date of Nov 4th 2016.

Google is now entering the Voice control market, after they announced earlier this year working on an “Alexa like product but much better”. At the Oct 4th 2016 Google event, where Google announced a variety of new products and product refreshes, they provided a detailed insight into the new Google Home product line.

Let’s go over their major features and functions announced for Google Home. The appearance is the first item Google addressed by offering a variety of textures and colors to chose from. Amazon Echo is also available in white now and so will be the Echo Dots, when they are released October/E 2016.

Here is a video from Google demonstrating some use cases for Google Home.  Check it out.

A very important part of any voice assistant product line is their interoperability with “smart devices”. Alexa from Amazon has a huge head start, but Google is now starting and investing heavily in this area as well. Here is a comparison chart between Google Home and Amazon Alexa.

Far-Field Speaker comparison

Comparing the two systems

The Google Home Speaker seems impressive around all corners and in all directions. Once the product is released more detailed sound comparisons can be conducted.

The Alexa Speaker has proven to be quite impressive in terms of sound quality and base waves. Given the size of that product, the sound it produces is quite excellent.

In summary:

Google is releasing a major competitor to Amazon’s Echo Alexa family. It lacks in some areas, while it has an advantage in other areas. In the end the ease of use, the integration and interoperability options will drive customer adoption. In either way, competition in the market place is always good because it benefits the end consumer… us!

 

 

 

Disclaimer: This blog and tweets represent my own view points and not of my employer, Amazon Web Services.

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