The same technology that gave us smartphones has been spreading to device after device in recent years, bringing us everything from smartwatches to connected automobiles. One of the biggest areas for growth has been this idea of a smart home: getting our appliances, security systems, and climate control networks to all talk together. And while really tight integration is still a tricky feat to accomplish, companies have been taking big strides lately in delivering products that make smartphone tech feel like a natural fit in new environments. That’s just what Amazon did last fall with the Echo, and today the company shares some big news about greatly improved Echo availability.
It’s hard to pin-down just what Echo is, but probably the best way to think of it is as the physical embodiment of a virtual personal assistant like Cortana or Siri. You speak to Echo’s cylindrical speaker, and it answers your requests. Users can control connected devices around the home, access music, get the latest news, and even order products from Amazon, just by talking to Echo.
After debuting last fall, Amazon kept access to Echo restricted, selling it with an invite-only system. Today that all changes, and general sales of Echo open to the public.
Amazon’s selling the Echo for just about $180. Orders are open now, with shipments set to go out in three weeks.