Just under a week before Google’s Launch Night In, Amazon is hosting a hardware event to discuss its latest smart home offerings. The retailer kicked off its announcement with a new line of Echo smart speakers that look exactly like the Nexus Q.
The “next generation of Echo” devices all look like spheres. It’s a stark departure from the original cylindrical smart speaker design that was softened and covered in fabric over time.
The half of the orb facing users is covered in fabric, while the side is made of plastic and the bottom is home to a ring of lights. Amazon touts “premium, adaptive sound” with a 3-inch woofer and dual-firing tweeters.
Save for the fabric and different ring placement, it’s a spitting image of the Nexus Q that Google announced at I/O 2012. This small Android-powered (4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich) media player was focused on high-end audio, with all content streamed from the cloud and playback controlled with phones. The Nexus Q’s top half spun and acted as a giant volume nob. The light ring between the two pieces acted as a very colorful but subtle visualizer.
Priced at $300 and made in the US, Google gave it away to conference attendees. It was supposed to launch a month after that, but Google postponed it and eventually canceled the project due to poor reception. It was eventually replaced by the Chromecast.
Meanwhile, this Echo acts as a Zigbee hub and Sidewalk bridge, a standard Amazon is working on. It’s powered by an “Amazon AZ1 Neural Edge” chip that touts 20x less power consumption and up to 2x faster speech processing at 85% lower memory usage. Last year’s Nest Mini introduced similar on-device processing. It costs $99 and comes in three colors (Charcoal, Glacier White, and Twilight Blue).
Amazon today also announced a similarly-shaped Echo Dot for $49.99 and Echo Dot with a clock for $10 more. Both are smaller with a 1.6-inch front-firing speaker,,while the latter features a standard LED display into the fabric mesh. It supports tap to snooze and Amazon touts “full sound,” as well as a “Kids Edition” with animal imprints.
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