Amazon has upgraded its Echo lineup, giving the Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Dot with Clock a spherical design that looks less awkward in your house than a cylinder or puck. The Kids’ Edition Dots got similar treatment but instead of a bright candy cane design, these little guys now have Panda and Tiger faces and can even teach your wee ones to read.
The new Echo is $100, and replaces the old Echo and the Echo Plus. It has an adaptive speaker with improved bass and it can do everything the original Echos could do. Upgrades include Zigbee compatibility - the Echo works as a Zigbee hub - and a built-in temperature sensor. You can pair multiple devices to create a home theatre system out of the speakers or create a synchronized music set up throughout your home.
The new Dots have a forward-firing 1.6-inch speaker and retail for just $50 if you want a grey or black ball. The price goes up to $60 if you want the Amazon Echo Dot with an LED clock, or if you want the kids’ version painted like a tiger or panda.
The new Kids’ Dots should make it harder for kids to find inappropriate stuff via Alexa by recognizing when kids are interacting with the speakers and responding with only kid-friendly content. Hopefully.
“Once enabled, Alexa will automatically shift to the Kids Alexa experience whenever she recognizes your child’s voice—on any device in the household—and provide kid-friendly responses, games, skills, music, and more. If you’re an Amazon Kids+ customer, all of your kids’ favorite premium skills and Audible books will be available,” wrote Amazon in its liveblog today. “Echo Dot Kids Edition comes with a one-year Amazon Kids+ subscription, giving families access to thousands of hours of kid-friendly Audible books, interactive games, and educational skills.”
Parents obviously have to enable these features before these little pandas can play the Frozen 2 soundtrack 50 times straight.
What’s more, the Kid version of the Dot offers animal-themed alarms, and a new feature called Reading Sidekick will take turns reading with your kids as they work through a book. It sounds pretty wild, but Amazon says it will work with “hundreds of children’s books.”
“Soon, Alexa will take turns reading from a supported book with the child and listen for quality of reading, offering encouragement when the child is reading well and support when the child struggles,” Amazon wrote.
The “adult” Echos come in three colors: Charcoal, Glacier White, and Twilight Blue.
Obviously, the question remains whether or not we want a listening device in our kids’ rooms. With phones and fridges and everything else listening in one little Tiger Dot won’t hurt... right?
All versions of the new Echo are available for preorder now.