Amazon unveils new thermostat, Echo Show 15


‘Hey Disney:’ Amazon adds Disney content to Alexa voice assistant

Amazon announced “Hey Disney,” which it calls a voice assistant that “works alongside” Alexa.

It will integrate Disney characters with Alexa, Amazon SVP David Limp said.

Multiple Disney characters, including Mickey, Dory, and Olaf will respond from the smart speaker, Amazon said. The content includes jokes and trivia. Disney was able to customize Alexa technology to fit its own content and brand using Amazon technology, according to the companies.

Amazon Echos equipped with Disney content will be also placed inside Disney resort hotel rooms.

There’s also a new stand for the Echo Show that looks like Mickey Mouse made by Otterbox. It will cost $24.99.

“Hey Disney” will be aviailable in the U.S. from the Amazon Alexa skills store in 2022, Amazon said. — Kif Leswing

Amazon’s future smart home bet: ambient computing

Amazon’s SVP of devices and services, David Limp started his presentation talking about ambient computing and how it plays into the company’s vision for the future of the smart home.

So, what was he talking about?

Ambient computing is the concept where “smart” devices are intelligently working for you automatically. (Legendary tech columnist Walt Mossberg dedicated his final column to ambient computing if you want to take a deep dive.)

To make this work, you need as many appliances as possible connected and working together, which Amazon does through its Alexa assistant. The company has also been making more and more connected devices — from microwaves to video doorbells. And more are coming Tuesday.

It’s a bold concept that could one day make your home just as smart as one out of a classic “The Jetsons” episode.

–Steve Kovach

Amazon announces new Echo that can hang on a wall

Amazon Echo Show 15


Amazon unveiled a new Echo device that can be mounted on a wall or placed anywhere around the home. It’s called the Echo Show 15.

Amazon has released other voice-activated smart displays through its Echo Show line, but this one has the largest screen yet at 15.6 inches. Users can hang it on a wall either vertically or horizontally, similar to a photo frame.

“We think of it as a kitchen TV, but much, much smarter,” said Miriam Daniel, vice president of Alexa and Echo devices.

The Echo Show 15 can control smart home devices like Ring security cameras, lights or appliances. It can also be placed in the kitchen to show how-to videos or recipes. 

Amazon designed widgets that can be added to the Echo Show 15’s display for things like digital post-it notes, to-do lists and other tools. Using a new feature called visual ID, Amazon says Alexa can recognize different users and serve up personalized information like calendar events. The feature is optional and users have to enroll in the feature to use it.

The Echo Show 15 costs $249.99 and launches later this year. 

— Annie Palmer

Amazon announces $60 smart thermostat, competing with Google’s Nest

Amazon announced a competitor to Google’s Nest on Tuesday. Its new Smart Thermostat will cost $59.99, which is half the price of the average smart thermostat sold on Amazon, the company said.

It’s part of a partnership with Honeywell, and some customers should be able to get energy rebates bringing down the price even farther, Amazon SVP David Limp said.

Users can say, “Alexa, good night,” and the thermostat will turn down the temperature, according to an example presented by Amazon. — Kif Leswing

Amazon’s Dave Limp kicks off the event

Dave Limp, Amazon’s SVP of devices and services, just walked on stage at the Amazon Spheres, its nature-inspired centerpiece at its Seattle headquarters, to kick off the event.

“Throughout today, you’re going to see examples of our next big leaps forward,” Limp said.

— Annie Palmer

Amazon accidentally leaked its own products

Amazon’s hardware event isn’t supposed to kick off for another 10 minutes, but for a few brief minutes, it accidentally leaked images of a bunch of products it will probably announce.

The company is hosting a livestream that’s only open to the press. At the bottom of the stream, it posted photos of a smart thermostat, a new wearable device and other products.

The images have since been removed from the stream page. Amazon will likely provide more details about the products when the event begins shortly.

— Annie Palmer

Amazon uses its hardware events to test new ideas

Amazon typically launches a smattering of products at its annual hardware event, from Echo devices to more far-flung devices like Alexa-powered microwaves and wall clocks. Some of the products may not be available widely to the public yet as Amazon launches them by invite only to test out new ideas.

Last year, for example, Amazon surprised viewers when its subsidiary Ring launched a flying security drone. That drone still hasn’t launched widely to the public, however.

— Annie Palmer

Amazon gadgets are usually hot sellers ahead of the holidays

Amazon’s redesigned Echo Dots Kids Edition

Amanda Ringstad, Amazon

Amazon’s gadgets are regularly among the top sellers during the company’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. That’s when Amazon typically discounts devices like its Echo products and promotes them on its site while folks are shopping for loved ones.

Last year, Amazon said some of its top Cyber Monday sales included the Echo Dot and the Echo Show 5 smart screen, for example. So it makes sense for Amazon to have new products ready to ship by that time. Amazon’s Echo Dot was refreshed last year, so it could be updated again on Tuesday if Amazon sticks to an annual refresh. The Echo Show 5 was updated over the summer, though, so it’s unlikely we see an update to that.

But these gadgets don’t make up a significant part of Amazon’s revenue. Instead, they’re a way for people to use Amazon’s services, like Amazon Music, Prime Video, Audible and Alexa. And they can be used to buy things from Amazon.

Todd Haselton