The e-commerce giant's invite-only press event brought us Astro, a robot Alexa, a Disney partnership and tons more smart devices.
It's been a busy couple of months in tech. Today, Amazon held its big product event for the year, during which we usually get upgrades to popular devices. This year Amazon brought us a Nest competitor, Amazon's Smart Thermostat, the Echo Show 15 and it introduced Disney to Alexa with Hey Disney. The Amazon Glow for kids combines video calling with activities and the Halo View brings Amazon to your wrist. There are more Blink products, and the Ring Alarm Pro lets a service monitor your home while you're away -- or the flying Always Home Cam drone can watch it for you. And Astro the robot brings wheels to Alexa, for $1,000.
Read more: Ring's police problem never went away. Here's what you need to know
But Amazon is also known for throwing wacky ideas at the wall. In previous years it's added Alexa smarts to a microwave or and built an analog clock. Amazon even created a mood ring, of sorts, that you can talk to. And don't forget the floating guard drone announced from its Ring division.
Amazon's announcements come after we've already had a torrent of releases from the industry's biggest players. Samsung's showed off its folding phones, including the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3. Apple has announced its iPhone 13 and new iPad Mini, and Microsoft introduced its second-gen Surface Duo phone and new Surface Studio laptop.
10:12 a.m. PT
Amazon's event is officially done. Now, it's time to start debating if you'd prefer a Sony Aibo, an Amazon Astro or a Tesla Bot in your home. ("No, thanks" is also an option, if you're worried about a future Skynet).
9:58 a.m. PT
Amazon's created a home robot, which can help check in on your home and look for people or pets. It can actively patrol your home as well, using Ring's subscription service.
Amazon's David Limp said he sees Astro as a way to help give peace of mind for families, helping them interact and check in on older family members, for example.
It's not just an Alexa on wheels, Limp said. It has eyes on the screen and even cup holders, because why not.
Limp said it's designed for "privacy at every turn," with out-of-bounds zones built in. You can turn on a "do not disturb" setting to minimize how much Astro moves day or night. Amazon also built the device to do as much computing in its body as possible, rather than relying on an internet connection.
Limp said the product took four years to make, and a lot of it was coming up with a way for the device to map a person's home, understand what it sees, and still move autonomously.
Astro will be available for $1,000. You'll need an invite to order one when they launch.
9:55 a.m. PT
Amazon introduced a subscription emergency response feature. You can ask Alexa to call for help to connect to emergency responders, and send an alert notifying a family member. It also lets multiple caregivers stay in the loop with the subscription service. Users can set up remote assist to let loved ones remotely help them resolve IT issues and set up programs like music streaming on their own devices.
The service costs $20 a month and Amazon is providing a free year for Alexa Care Hub users.
Amazon announces Halo Fitness and Nutrition platforms to help you hit your health goals
9:48 a.m. PT
Amazon's Blink camera division is expanding its product offerings too. The cheap stick-up cameras are expanding to include a video doorbell, Amazon said. So now you can buy a $49 video doorbell under the Blink brand that's wired or wireless.
The company's also going to start offering a floodlight.
9:47 a.m. PT
Amazon is going to combine home security with a secure and stable internet connection. Ring Protect Pro can manage a network of Ring cameras in a home, and it's combined with an Eero Wi-Fi 6 router that includes a stable internet connection that works around power outages, as well as a network monitoring service to watch for threats coming over the internet. The device is priced at $250.
The optional Ring Edge feature is a new one for Ring. It's on-device storage and processing, which keeps a Ring systems's data off Amazon's cloud. It's possible with improved chips on the devices, which also speed up processing by skipping sending and receiving data over the internet.
9:42 a.m. PT
Ring's mission, the company says, is to make neighborhoods safer. One of the ways it's doing this is through the Ring Always Home Cam.
The Always Home Cam will fly around your home at a regular interval, or when it hears something. Privacy is built in, Ring said, by covering the camera when it's docked for charging.
Amazon isn't going to start full-on selling it immediately. Instead, it's going to start with an invite-only beta. It'll cost $250.
Ring Alarm Pro merges a router and a security system
9:40 a.m. PT
Amazon is adding a new product to its Halo line, which already includes its fitness tracking band and its app with fitness tracking features and premium workouts.
The device shows fitness stats and classes on the screen, has seven days of battery life, is a swim-proof device and comes with a variety of color and material options. It's $80 with a full year of membership included.
It's also offering Halo Fitness and Halo Nutrition, two services to help you track your health.
9:32 a.m. PT
Amazon's idea for how to change video calls for kids is to make them more interactive. A new device, called Amazon Glow, projects computer images onto a table, where kids can interact with it. There's an 8-inch LCD display so the kids can see their loved one as well.
So, the way it works is that there will be an app the adult on the other end of the call can use to interact with books, draw, play puzzles and more. On the kid's side, the Amazon Glow projects what the adult sees on their tablet onto the surface in front of it. Courtney Holoszyc, who's part of Amazon's family tech efforts, said it's designed to be interactive and to keep the kid's attention.
She also noted that physical and digital products can interact with one another. And Amazon's partnered with Disney, Mattel, Sesame Street and Nickelodeon for interactive books, puzzles and all sorts of other items.
To protect kids, Amazon said the $249 device will have a privacy shutter, and kids can only call people who've been preapproved by their parents.
9:25 a.m. PT
In a new partnership with Disney, you can use an Alexa device to interact with Disney, Pixar and Star Wars characters. Called Hey Disney, the feature gives you jokes, trivia, story readings, as well as "surprises" you'll have to discover on your own. You can use it in Disney park hotels as well as on your own Alexa device with a purchase.
This will "integrate the best of Disney" with Alexa, said Dave Limp, Amazon's senior vice president of services and devices. He called it, "one of the most imaginative uses of ambient technology I've seen."
9:21 a.m. PT
Amazon's upgrading its subscription service for kids, that goes along with its Echo Show, Fire TV, Fire tablets and iOS or Android apps. Amazon said the service, which starts at $3 a month, will have new games and exclusive content including from the hit YouTube channel Blippi.
Amazon's new Echo Show 15 wall-mounted smart display is the biggest yet
9:18 a.m. PT
Amazon is adding personalization features using its AZ2 Neural Edge processor. The juiced up chip can process much faster, which lets it run the personalization features on the device. As a result, features that use data about you won't send that information to Amazon's cloud.
One of these features uses your face. Alexa can recognize you when you're in the Echo Show camera's field of view. That means you can see your recently played music or "sticky notes" left behind for you by other members of your household. You can also personalize preferences like dietary restrictions or your favorite sports fans.
"Our goal is for you to be able to personalize your experiences," said Miriam Daniel, EVP of Echo and Alexa.
New Amazon Smart Thermostat takes on Nest with low $60 price
9:13 a.m. PT
Amazon wants to change the way we think of tablets, creating a wall-mounted device designed to give us information and control over our smart homes. Miriam Daniel, EVP Echo and Alexa, said it comes with a new widget-based interface that's meant to offer people access to information like the weather, shopping lists, sticky notes and a shared family calendar.
You can also see which smart devices are on or off through the Echo Show, and it'll show you feeds from the Ring video doorbell overlaid on what you're seeing.
The Echo Show 15 can be mounted in portrait or landscape mode, Daniel added.
Oh, and of course you can watch TV on it. Because why not?
9:10 a.m. PT
Amazon says it's working hard to lower its carbon footprint and limit energy use by its own products. But it also wants to help you lower your own energy use and it's focusing on the HVAC system as a big energy hog in many people's homes. Amazon is introducing a certified smart energy thermostat powered by Alexa. It'll work with most existing HVAC systems and is made in partnership with Honeywell.
9:08 a.m. PT
While Amazon's been criticized for its handling of people's data, particularly its relationships with police departments. As CNET's reported before, Amazon hasn't been fully upfront about the way it handles information caught on Ring. Limp said the company's goal is to make privacy the center of what it does.
9:06 a.m. PT
Amazon begins its event with David Limp, the company's SVP for Devices and Services. He starts by talking about how despite how hard the last 18 months have been, Amazon's been focused on "inventing on behalf of customers."
"Our vision for how we can craft technology to make customers' lives even better," he says. "Our goal has been to not build gadgets but instead devices that are deeply integrated with services. When we're at our best, those services the content, the interactions are front and center, and the device itself fades into the background."
He notes that "ambient intelligence" is a key part of this, an AI that's there when you need it but "recedes into the background," when you don't.
"What you're going to see are examples of our next big leaps forward: science fiction becoming reality," he adds.
9:00 a.m. PT
Tech events have a certain template they tend to follow, even during the pandemic. One of them is that they use upbeat and inspiring music to get you in the mood before they begin. Amazon is no different. Just before everything began, we heard The Head and the Heart's All We Ever Knew, and now Coldplay and BTS are belting out My Universe -- as in, the thing that Amazon wants Alexa to control: My universe.
Amazon's already announced several changes for its Fire TV division, including its Fire TV Omni and Fire TV 4-Series, the first Amazon-branded TVs, starting at $370. The new devices, announced a few weeks ago, are on preorder now. They're due to arrive in October. And before you ask, yes you can bark "Alexa!" orders at it hands-free.
The TVs are relatively basic, offering 4K resolution, HDR and Dolby Vision support, and they come in 65-inch and 75-inch models. Unlike the TCL 5-Series Roku TV or the Vizio M7Q series, which have similar initial pricing, the Fire TV Omni lacks full-array local dimming, quantum dot color and the latest gaming features, so our TV expert David Katzmaier said he doesn't expect image quality "to be in the same league" as similar devices from TCL and Vizio.
Amazon also offers its software for other companies to power their TVs, such as Toshiba's Fire TV Edition.
Today's event will also likely include news from Ring, Amazon's smart home security line. Amazon bought Ring three years ago, and more substantive integrations with Alexa and other Amazon devices and services might finally be coming down the pike.
There's also the Always Home Cam -- the flying drone camera Amazon teased but didn't release last year. Rumors suggest we could get an update on that today.
It's important to remember that Ring has been contending with all sorts of privacy controversies over the past year, especially with regard to relationships with police. Amazon's addressed some of them with increased privacy and security options, but more still needs to be done.
We already know some of the changes coming to Alexa, thanks to announcements made at the Alexa Live developers' conference in July. Among the changes were the Amazon Custom Assistant Program that allows third parties to create their own assistants using Alexa's blueprint. Verizon already jumped at the chance, announcing the Verizon Smart Display and the option to say, "Hi, Verizon." (A lost opportunity for anyone hoping for "Verizon, can you hear me now?")
What new Alexa features will be announced this Tuesday is tough to call, but there are almost certainly some new things up Alexa's virtual sleeve.
The company also discussed Matter. Formerly known as Project Connected Home over IP (CHIP), Matter will be a single, IP-based, open-source standard that works over Wi-Fi and supports all major control platforms. It... ahem... matters because it's supposed to act as a universal language that smart home devices from makers like Google, Apple and Amazon could use to connect with and understand each other.
At Alexa Live, Amazon announced plans to integrate Matter into nearly all Echo devices (excluding first-gen speakers) via an over-the-air update. Amazon had slated the software development kit for release late this year, but it has since been pushed to 2022.
7:30 a.m. PT
Amazon often announces a handful of "Day 1" products -- experimental devices to measure market interest. They've ranged from microwaves and clocks to wearable rings and glasses -- and they don't always survive long. It's tough to guess what Amazon will try out next, but our guess is as good as yours. How about an Alexa-enabled garbage can?
Speaking of Alexa, the assistant is also likely to see some updates. Last year the Echo Show got Netflix and support for group calling. A focus on features that support remote work, like teleconferencing and productivity management, would be timely and on brand.
7 a.m. PT
And it begins. Amazon's 2021 fall Echo event is happening today, Sept. 28, at 9 a.m. PT. Amazon won't be livestreaming its invite-only presentation to the general public, but the company has promised attendees "news about our latest Amazon devices, features and services", according to invitations that went out Sept. 20.
We're anticipating news across all of Amazon's device and services categories. In years past, Amazon has unleashed literally dozens of new devices at its events, big and small. From the Echo Auto to the rotating Echo Show 10 to that odd Echo Wall Clock. Of course, new Echo Dots and Echo speakers are often the centerpiece.
Amazon's event will start Tuesday, Sept. 28, at 9 a.m. PT, noon ET, 5 p.m. BST, and Sept. 29 at 2 a.m. AEST. (Sorry, Australia.)
Amazon's event will be invite-only for the press, but we'll be covering everything here on CNET, with a live blog, as well as news stories, analysis and reviews you can get only from us.