The rumors turned out to be true: Amazon just introduced the Echo Show 15, a wall-mountable smart display.
The Echo Show 15 is the largest Echo Show yet with a 15.6-inch 1080p display. Visually, it’s similar to the Samsung Frame TV, but a tad smaller and much more affordable at $250. It can be hung vertically or horizontally and, like the Samsung Frame, can be used to display photos or art. The Echo Show 15 will support Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, and starting later this year, Sling TV. (Sling TV will also come to other Echo Show devices.) One neat feature is the picture-in-picture viewing for security camera feeds.
If you’re wondering why Amazon decided to make a giant Echo Show, the idea is to act as a sort of hub for families—something like a mix between a digital bulletin board, a smart home control panel, and a digital picture frame. To do all that, the Echo Show 15 introduces a widget gallery. Some will be developed by Amazon itself, but according to the Verge, there will also be an API for third-party developers. Amazon says its Alexa widgets continually refresh in the background and can be rearranged to best suit a user’s needs. For example, the smart home favorites widget is meant to let a user view and control their most frequently used devices. Another is a “sticky notes” widget, which basically lets you leave digital Post-Its for your family. Notes can also be left for specific family members. Perhaps a more creepy use is tracking personal devices, such as a Tile tracker, and watching where your Amazon packages are on a map widget.
Otherwise, the Echo Show has some more familiar organizational features. And while it’s meant to be a hub, it’s clear Amazon views this as a device that’s best used in the kitchen. Users can view and update household calendars, edit shopping lists, re-order items, as well as check to-do lists. It’ll also support deliveries from Dominos, and give recipe recommendations from Allrecipes, Tasty, and Epicurious, among others. Amazon also says you can customize your recipe and delivery recommendations via “personalized taste profiles” with your family’s eating preferences.
The device is powered by a new AZ2 Neural Edge quad-core processer, which Amazon says is capable of performing 22x more TOPs (trillions of operations per second.) Basically it does a lot more, faster. While processor upgrades are expected, Amazon says this new silicon can now simultaneously process computer vision and on-device speech recognition on-device. All that beefy processing power means we get a new feature: Visual ID. The idea is that the Echo Show 15 will be able to recognize different family members as they pass by and automatically update what’s on the display for that person. Once a Visual ID is set up, the Echo Show will show each individual customized greetings, personal reminders, calendar events, notes, or music. If you choose to enroll your kids in Visual ID, Amazon says the device will only show age-appropriate content.
Amazon also announced some new “teachable” AI features. Namely, you can now teach Alexa what your preferences are. That includes stuff like your favorite sports team or even dietary needs, so if you’re a vegetarian, Alexa will only serve up relevant recipes. The other AI feature is Custom Sounds. You can teach Alexa a specific sound, which then triggers an action. Sort of like an audio-based version of what IFTTT does. For instance, Alexa can learn what a fridge beeping because the door was left open sounds like. If the assistant hears your fridge beep, it’ll then send you a notification to close your fridge door.
As for privacy—because you’ve always got to wonder about privacy with camera-enabled devices—Amazon says it included a built-in shutter to cover the camera. Users will also be able to view and delete voice recordings, as well as tweak microphone and camera controls. With regard to Visual ID, Amazon says it’s an optional feature, and that all image processing happens on-device. Visual IDs can also be deleted at any time.
We’ll have to see how the Echo Show 15 works for ourselves, but it’ll be available later this year for $250.
Correction, 09/28/2021, 4:25 pm: A previous version of this article misstated that the picture-in-picture feature works for streaming video—it only works for camera feeds. Also, Amazon clarified after publication that the Echo Show 15 is not a smart home hub that connects devices; it only lets you view and control them. We regret the errors.