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Amazon updates Echo lineup with new products for video calls, voice calls, more

The slew of new Amazon Alexa-enabled products will be useful for consumers, but they also might make good tools for SMBs and startups as well.

Amazon's entire portfolio of Alexa-enabled hardware seems to be getting a refresh, as the company unveiled a host of new products at an event on Wednesday. There were updates to some of the standard echo products, but Amazon also unveiled some new tools that could be useful for businesses.

Starting with the standard Echo itself, Amazon unveiled a new version of the smart home speaker that is a smaller form factor, with better sound, and new designs for $100. According to a press release, it also has improved far-field technology to help it wake more readily.

The Amazon Echo Plus, on the other hand, is a $150 version with a built-in smart home hub aimed at making it easier for users to connect other IoT products to Alexa. It also features improved sound with 360-degree omni-directional audio.

SEE: Hiring kit: IoT developer (Tech Pro Research)

The Echo Spot was one of the more interesting announcements. It is a small, circular Echo device that features a round screen and could be used as a bedside alarm clock replacement. However, the $130 device also has a camera, so it can be used for video calls as well. This could make a good option for remote workers who need a camera setup in their home office for standup meetings.

At the event, Amazon also introduced the $35 Echo Connect, a box that basically connects your Amazon Echo to a landline phone. Amazon already allows VoIP calls over many Alexa devices, but the Echo Connect could help for emergency calls when the internet is down. It also syncs contacts, so it could simply be a good, low-cost option for a small business that needs the functionality Alexa offers, but doesn't want to make calls over VoIP.

There were quite a few other announcements at the event as well. For example, Amazon also debuted Echo Buttons, which are essentially game show-style buzzers for people to play games with Alexa. They will sell for $20 a pair.

The Buttons are part of Amazon's Alexa Gadgets accessory line. The firm also showed off the Alexa Gadgets API by connecting Alexa to a Big Mouth Billy Bass talking fish to show how Alexa can be integrated into other products.

Finally, Amazon also announced a new $70 4K Fire TV. It can handle 4K video at 60fps, and will come with a Alexa voice remote included. The device is powered by a 1.5Ghz quad-core processor as well.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Amazon recently announced a host of new Alexa products, including a new Echo and Echo Plus with better sound and additional features.
  2. The $130 Echo Spot is a small, round Echo device with a screen and camera that can be used for video calls, and could work well in a small business.
  3. The $35 Echo Connect is a box that allows businesses to connect Alexa to a landlines, in order to make calls even when the internet is down.

Also see

echoplus.jpg

The new Echo and Echo Plus.

Image: Ry Crist/CNET

About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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