Amazon held its annual Echo device event on Sept. 28, 2021, announcing new products across the company's Echo and Ring lines. While we got a first look a several new features and devices, -- including the Amazon Smart Thermostat,the Amazon Glow, the Halo view and the whimsical "Hey, Disney!" voice assistant for Echo Devices -- the headliner of the Echo portion was the Echo Show 15, a wall-mountable smart display that's the largest yet from Amazon.
The Echo Show 15 is a 15.6-inch, 1080p HD touchscreen. It has a microphone, front-facing camera and side-firing speakers. The camera has a physical shutter, and there's a familiar mute button for turning off the mic. On paper, it's a familiar recipe for an Echo Show device. Take one look at it in photographs, though, and you'll see a whole new aesthetic.
The Echo Show 15 will cost $250 (£240, which is roughly AU$450) and comes in a single, black-framed color option. You'll be able to mount the display horizontally or vertically on your wall or place it on a stand. Wall-mounting equipment will be included with the Echo Show 15, while counter stand accessories will be sold separately.
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The Echo Show 15 comes with the AZ2 processor. Last year's Echo and Echo Dot speakers had the AZ1 processor, which enabled enhanced voice processing. The AZ2 gives the Echo Show 15 computer vision processing capabilities. That enabled Visual ID, a facial recognition feature that lets Alexa show you personalized recommendations, calendars, to-do lists and more when your face is captured by the camera.
Because the chip can process what the camera is seeing, all the computer vision processing happens on device without sending anything to the cloud. Visual ID is completely optional and turned off by default. You'll have to opt in and enroll your facial profile to use the feature. This profile won't be sent to any other devices.
The Echo Show 15 also brings widgets to the interface. A gallery of customizable widgets will be available for you to drag and drop onto the main screen. Options include a smart home widget with your most frequently used devices, sticky notes and a calendar. Developers can create their own widgets, so expect to see many more in the coming months.
Like the Echo Show 10, the Echo Show 15 can function as an Alexa Guard watchdog. The device's camera can be streamed remotely in the Alexa app, and the microphone can listen for alarms or glass shattering and randomize smart lights for free. For a fee, Alexa will add deterrence measures, such as sounding an alarm or playing the sound of dogs barking if a break-in is detected and can connect you to a 24-hour helpline.
Amazon also announced a new feature called Custom Sounds, available on Echo and Echo Show devices beginning next year. You can train Alexa to listen for sounds specific to your household.
For example, Alexa can learn the sound of your washing machine's alert tone and send a notification. Custom Sounds could train Alexa to assist someone with a hearing impairment by recognizing the sound of a doorbell chime and alerting the user with a flashing smart bulb or phone notification.
The Echo Show 15 seems set to compete with the similarly sized, new Facebook Portal Plus. Amazon also recently began making its own smart TVs, so Alexa in a wall-mounted, flat-screen style could be increasingly common.
The Echo Show 15 will be available later this year in the US, UK, Canada, Mexico, Germany, Brazil, France, Italy, Spain, Japan and Australia. If you're interested, you'll need to sign up for preorders, but no dates have yet been announced.
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