If you own an Amazon Echo device, you probably know how Alexa responds when you ask her to show you funny cat videos.
"Playing videos is not supported on this device."
But if you have at least $130 to spend on another Echo device, Alexa will play videos from YouTube or Amazon Prime on-demand. In fact, you can even ask her to show you clips from your security camera. Meet Echo Show, the $230 Amazon Echo with a touchscreen display and its smaller sibling, the $130 Echo Spot.
Same Ol' AI, Shiny New Features
Alexa, the AI voice assistant living inside Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Plus, Amazon Tap, and Echo Look, is the same AI living inside Echo Show and Spot. The things you ask Echo, you can ask the two devices. Now if you're wondering if they can hear as well as Echo, they can.
Show has a total of eight built-in microphones with beam-forming technology and noise cancellation, allowing it to hear from across a room, even while playing music. Echo Spot has four far-field microphones but it also has beam-forming technology and noise cancellation. Regarding speakers, the two devices don't have multi-directional speakers like Amazon Echo but instead, use forward facing speakers. Show has two Dolby-powered stereo speakers (Echo's speaker is mono) that are powerful enough to fill an entire room. Spot has a weaker speaker but also has a built-in 3.5mm stereo jack port so you can connect it to your existing speaker system. It can also connect to Bluetooth speakers.
As always, Alexa can play music from Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, or even from your connected Bluetooth device.
Sound aside, the main difference between Echo Show and Spot and other Echo devices is the presence of a screen. Echo Show features a rectangular 7" touchscreen display and a built-in webcam. Echo Spot comes with a round screen that is 2.5" in diameter and a webcam. These new features found in Echo Show and Spot unlock new possibilities for your home security cameras.
1. Visual Feedback
The first of Echo Show and Spot's new abilities is the ability to provide visual feedback. For example, when you ask them to check the weather, they will not only tell you but will show you. You can even ask Alexa to show you pictures from your Prime Photo account.
2. Stream Videos
Echo Show and Echo Spot can also stream videos from YouTube and Amazon Prime. You can say things like, "Alexa, show me the trailer for Deadpool 2," "Alexa, show me funny fail videos," or "Alexa, stream SpongeBob Squarepants from Amazon Prime." Alexa promptly responds by pulling up relevant videos and playing them on your device's screen. In addition, when you ask Alexa for the latest news, she can now show you flash briefings from CNN, Bloomberg, and other news channels.
3. Stream Security Camera Footage
One of our favorite features is Echo Show and Spot's ability to stream camera footage. However, there are only a few cameras that work with Echo Show and Echo Spot. The list includes, Ring, August Doorbell, Arlo cameras, all Nest Cam variants, and several cameras from EZVIZ as well as Amcrest. For a complete list of cameras that work with Echo Show and Echo Spot, click here.
4. Improved Music Streaming
Finally, Alexa's ability to stream music from Amazon Music and Pandora was also revamped. Instead of just listening to your favorite music, you can now sing along (and get the lyrics right) thanks to Echo Show's ability to display lyrics.
Alexa For Easy Communication
Amazon also launched new messaging and calling features for all Alexa users for free, including those who don't have an Alexa device but have the Alexa app on their phone. The feature is divided into three parts: calling, messaging, and drop-in.
Alexa Calling is a feature that lets you call other Alexa users (assuming you have them saved as a phone contact). Simply ask Alexa to call the person you want to reach, and she'll promptly connect you with that person. If you're on the receiving end, you'll receive a notification on your device and through the Alexa app. You can answer incoming calls with your voice by saying "Alexa, answer". If the call is between two Echo Show devices or between an Echo Show and an Alexa app user, the call becomes a Skype-style video call. If you want, you can turn off the camera and downgrade to a voice call by saying "Alexa, camera off".
Aside from voice and video calls, Alexa can now send text and voice messages.
You can either type out your message using the Alexa app or dictate it to your Alexa device.
Exclusive to Echo Show and Echo Spot, Drop Ins are video calls that go through automatically, even if the person on the receiving end doesn't answer. You will automatically be able to hear them and even see them through their Echo Show's camera. For the first 10 seconds, however, you will only see a frosted glass view, but after that, the video will automatically transition to a clear view. If you're not ready for a sudden Drop In, you can ask Alexa to hang up, or you can turn off your camera. You can also use the Camera Off button on Echo Show.
That said, have no fear, Drop Ins are optional. In fact, Amazon encourages users to only use it with their "closest friends and family members," especially while monitoring seniors. You can even deactivate the Drop In feature once and for all using the Alexa app.
Alexa Calling, Messages, and Drop Ins have one thing in common: the person you're calling must have an Echo device or the Alexa app on their smartphone. That said, you can't use the features to call 911. However, Amazon recently launched the $35 Echo Connect. It's a device that connects to your landline or VoIP service to enable voice calling through Alexa. You can even use it to dial 911. As Echo Connect is tied to its user's phone number, Echo Connect also allows for caller ID.