Amazon's Alexa suits up for Super Bowl 50

Amazon's first-ever Super Bowl ad is all about Alexa, and features Alec Baldwin and Dolphins Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino.

Amazon is set to air its first-ever Super Bowl ad during February 7th's matchup between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos. Front and center in the spot: the Amazon Echo smart speaker, and its voice-activated, cloud-connected artificial-intelligence assistant, Alexa.

The ad stars Alec Baldwin and Hall of Fame Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, and will show off Echo and Alexa's capabilities around the home. Aside from streaming music from Amazon Prime Music and services like Pandora and iHeartRadio, Echo can manage your shopping lists and to-do lists, and control a growing number of connected home devices. A teaser for the ad, posted below, shows Alexa helping Baldwin and Marino plan the perfect party for the big game.

The spot reflects Echo and Alexa's increasingly high profile. After initially launching on Amazon as an invite-only beta product, the smart speaker is now widely available for $180, both online and in major retail outlets across the US. The speaker has garnered mostly positive reviews, with CNET's David Carnoy calling it a likable device "that will grow on you as it continues to improve."

Those improvements have been arriving at a fairly rapid pace. Since Echo's launch, Amazon has added over ninety-five "Skills" to Alexa's toolkit -- when enabled, those Skills allow Echo to do things like track sports scores, crack jokes, and serve as a universal voice remote. Alexa also boasts a channel on the free online automation service IFTTT -- when enabled, you can use it to craft custom voice commands capable of triggering other smart home gadgets or web services.

Echo was also everywhere we looked at CES this month, with a wide variety of third-party products and services eagerly showing off new integrations with the speaker.

We're also expecting to continue to see growth from Alexa this year. Amazon's open approach to the software that powers its AI assistant allows third-party manufacturers to program it into any Internet-connected device that includes a speaker and a microphone. Triby, a fridge-mounted family speakerphone from Invoxia, claims it'll be the first such device to take advantage of Alexa's smarts. Samsung also hinted at plans to incorporate Alexa into its new Family Hub smart fridge, but now tells us that it's just a possibility.

Additionally, Amazon is reportedly looking into release a new wireless version of Echo that's smaller, more portable, and less expensive than the original. Code-named "Fox," the new device will reportedly charge in a docking station and, unlike its wired big sibling, only listen for voice commands after the user presses a button in order to help extend the battery life.

Super Bowl 50 is set to take place at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, less than 10 miles from Silicon Valley. According to Super Bowl organizers from the National Football League, the event is set to be the most technologically advanced game ever played, with app-enabled interactivity and 10 times more bandwidth in the stadium than the NFL mandates for regular season games.

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