Today, Amazon made two announcements related to Alexa — the new Echo Dot and the availability of the Echo soon in the UK and Germany. These are two very interesting updates for a number of reasons.
First, the price point for the Dot has dropped where it could be affordable to put it in almost every room — $50. We had look at various price points with the Ubi and there were some who were OK with buying 10-packs of the Ubi for about $150 / unit. Now, one can buy a 12-pack of Echo Dots for $500 (there’s a discount for 6 and 12 packs) and have the entire house (most North American homes) reachable by Alexa.
The Echo Dot now competes on price with a nice alarm clock or small BlueTooth speaker. Combine that with the dozens of Alexa Voice Service-enabled products (Pebble Core, CoWatch, Nucleus, etc), the reach for these devices is far. This also means that it becomes as convenient as the Dash Button for re-ordering products. Why not put an Echo Dot in the laundry room?
The Echo Dot with a 7-mic array, WiFi module, and LEDs might only be a viable hardware product with Amazon’s distribution power. Others making similar hardware would need to offer a similar product at over $100 retail to make any money. Amazon can also subsidize this off potential revenue having the Echo in the home will add from convenient purchases.
Second, for the Echo to be available in the UK means that Amazon has updated it’s language models (or is updating now) to be able to adjust for a UK accent. This could happen from many means — through Amazon running it’s own Mechanical Turk campaigns in the UK to get voice recordings to just building a model off of Echos with IP addresses based in the UK (that have been smuggled out of the US).
In Germany, this would be a further challenge. First, Amazon would need to build an ASR and NLU model for a new language and then we’ll see if and how Alexa Skills will be portable to the German language. Will there be a way for developers to make their skills multilingual?
It’ll be exciting to see how this is rolled out.