Techtober is off to a techtastic start:
Techtober may still be a couple days away, but Amazon is not wasting any time getting us started on a high note, and today the company unveiled a dizzying array of new products and enhancements to existing ones. We’ve already highlighted some of the major stand-outs, like the stylus-equipped Kindle Scribe, or the new Echo Dots and the cool way Amazon’s using them to act as Wi-Fi range extenders, but that’s just scratching the service. Let’s take a look at the best of the rest of what Amazon had to share, including robot upgrades, new Fire TVs, and lots more.
Astro the robot is growing up
One year ago, Amazon introduced us to Astro, its autonomous home robot. In addition to all the Alexa functionality you’d expect, Astro could also work as a mobile security camera, and even act as a bit of a companion while assisting the elderly with Alexa Together. Availability is still very limited, with the $1,000 robot sold by invitation only, but Amazon is already bringing Astro a few new features.
For one, Astro is learning how to recognize your pets, helping you keep connected to them even when away from home. Improvements to the robot’s AI will let it recognize the difference between doors and windows being open or closed, and alert you to those changes. And businesses will be able to use Astro with Ring’s Virtual Security Guard service to have it respond and check on possible incidents. Finally, a new SDK is being released to give third-party devs a chance to build experiences for Astro.
Halo Rise knows when you’ve been sleeping
It seems like everybody doing anything with smart home or wearables is very into sleep tracking these days, and of course, that includes Amazon. Since not all of us want to wear a tracker to bed, the idea of a non-invasive solution can sound very appealing, like what Google’s doing with the new Nest Hub. Now Amazon’s releasing its own sleep-tracking bedside smart hardware, called Halo Rise.
Like the Nest Hub, Halo Rise is a contactless sleep monitor, detecting your movement and measuring respiration in order to get a sense of your sleep cycles. Environmental sensors tracking temperature, humidity, and light levels are supposed to help give Rise the context it needs to understand why you may not be sleeping as well as you are (and recommend paths for improvement). There’s an integrated wake-up light for a gradual sunrise effect, and of course it can connect to your other Alexa devices. Full functionality may require a $4/month Halo subscription (it comes with six months free), and Amazon will sell the Halo Rise for $140 when it arrives later this year.
Echo Studio and Echo Auto upgrades
Amazon’s all about the upgrades for Echo devices today, and in addition to some new hardware and a fantastic-sounding Wi-Fi-extender software upgrade for existing Dots, the Echo Studio and Echo Auto are getting some love of their own.
We already really liked the Echo Studio smart speaker, and now Amazon’s giving it a spatial audio upgrade. The company offers a very technical explanation of how that processing works, but honestly we just want to hear it for ourselves. The best news is that while it’s going to debut with the Echo Studio, spatial audio should also be coming to other Echo devices further down the road.
Echo Auto’s been around for a while now, and frankly a refresh was probably overdue. The new Auto design is positively tiny, and can just stick right to the front of your dash, rather than trying to awkwardly balance up top. And if you end up stranded somewhere, pay-as-you-go roadside assistance will connect you with the help you need (without breaking the bank, hopefully).
Eero wants to blanket your home in Wi-Fi
Honestly, turning Echo Dots into Wi-Fi repeaters is probably the biggest networking news to come out of today’s announcements, but Amazon also has a few developments to share about new Eero hardware.
The company’s introducing a couple new Eero Wi-Fi 6 solutions using Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) for speedy deployment. Consisting of an access point and a gateway, this new hardware sounds decently capable, but it’s also positioned at professional installers and businesses, so you probably won’t be picking any of this up directly.
One cool user-facing change you should be paying attention to, though, is Eero’s new internet backup feature, letting you connect something like a mobile hotspot to be used as a fallback when your wired internet connection goes down.
Latest Fire TVs introduce a new Ambient Experience
Amazon’s new Fire TV Cube is ready to give your existing screen a serious upgrade, but if you’re in the market for something all-new, you’ve got the option of the Fire TV Omni QLED series.
Consisting of an $800 65-inch model and an $1,100 75-inch option, these are Amazon’s first models to feature what it’s calling its Ambient Experience, displaying artwork and showing the status of your smart home when it detects your presence. They bring Dolby Vision IQ and HDR10+ Adaptive support to the Fire TV series, and their 4K QLED panels provide 96 discrete dimming zones. Both models should start shipping in late October