back to article Amazon announces new Echo just as Microsoft's first Cortana-powered clone breaks cover

Amazon has announced the first Echo to feature a built-in display – one of 2017's stranger gadgets – just as Microsoft's Echo clone broke cover. The Harmon Kardon Invoke is a voice-enabled 360 speaker powered by Microsoft's Cortana. The news spoiled the announcement of Amazon's new Echo Show, which loosely resembles an iPad …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously.

    Any sound Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard.

    There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time.

    But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever the wanted to. You had to live- did live, from habit that became instinct- in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

    1. A K Stiles Silver badge
      Joke

      Pssshhhaaaww! Like it isn't going to have IR cameras enabled too!

      What year do you think this is? 1984?

    2. Ol'Peculier

      The clock's just struck 13. I haven't read 1984 for several years and am about to change that...

      1. AMBxx Silver badge

        read 1984 for several years

        If you want to really freak yourself out, read 'Brave New World'. We are already there.

        1. Vector

          Re: read 1984 for several years

          Naw...Anthony Burgess is the one wot got it right!

        2. NewGuy

          Re: read 1984 for several years

          Eh, Brave New World is a pretty great dystopia to fall into. I never understood how it was so bad. Maybe throw a little V for Vendetta into our hypothetic-robo-pocalypse, if we're talking about all seeing computers.

          (the comic)

    3. Ramazan

      "every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized."

      When you install Viber on an Android device, launch it for the first time and are presented with "create new Viber account" dialogue, Viber requests access to camera (you can observe this with Cyanogen mod's PrivacyGuard).

      Skype doesn't do this BTW. Skype only requests access to camera when you make a video call or snap a photo for a chat...

  2. Naselus

    Built-in Skype

    This is just about the only interesting bit of any of them, as far as I'm concerned. All I want a smart home assistant for is to put in my eldery mother's house, so that if she falls down the stairs she can ring me via voice command (she refuses to get a smartphone or anything else that could do the job, so yes, I'd need ot bug the friggin house).

    Added skills and suchlike are nice, but until I can literally just say 'Alexa, Ring X' and expect it to connect me to someone's mobile they're just expensive alarm clocks that can read you the front page of the Guardian and tell the NSA what you're having for lunch.

    1. Martin 47

      Re: Built-in Skype

      You need the mastermind app on the echo, although a smart or feature phone is also needed

  3. jMcPhee

    Echo Show looks like a 3Com Audrey without the keyboard

  4. Baldrickk Silver badge

    And... I won't be getting any of them.

    They are pretty pointless gadgets really, a solution looking for a problem.

    Tablets at least had a role to play, but now the people who want one have one, less people are buying them.

    There is even less need for these.

    1. Sandtitz Silver badge
      Meh

      These truly are pretty pointless gimmicks until they can come up with an actual self-contained AI and personality in the voices. None can converse in any meaningful way, they just look up answers from the net, or act as remote controls for home electronics.

      Why are all the voices female? The quintessential computer voice from almost 50 years ago was a pleasure to listen to. Cortana (to me) sounds too synthesized whereas Amazon and Google have made voice really fluid. Bixby and Siri sits somewhere inbetween. A hint of sultriness would help each.

      If and when we get to the actual HAL9000 stage with the voice of Douglas Rain AND without mothership control then I'll buy one. It should also have a mechanical on/off switch and should't complain too much being turned off. (lip-reading skills optional)

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        It should also have a mechanical on/off switch and should't complain too much being turned off.

        That'd be the "Mode Execute Ready" switch and it will merely activate the matronly emergency backup personality.

  5. wolfetone

    "To which you may ask: "Why? When everyone has a perfectly capable voice assistant in their pocket already? And can watch videos on their tablet or phablet?""

    Actually I'd ask: Why would you have one of these insecure microphones in your house, evesdropping in on all your conversations, and now filming your baby?

    You wouldn't have some random person from the street just help themselves in to your house and sit in the corner while you and your spouse got freaky with each other.

  6. James 51
    Big Brother

    Oh for the love of God just no. Isn't there enough spyware floating around without paying for it too?

  7. Your alien overlord - fear me

    "You mean it's all about data collection? No, silly, it's about" ... selling you suntan lotion if you ask about the weather and it's going to be sunny, selling you thermal underwear if it's snowing, etc. etc. Just like their tablets , you are buying something that then sells you stuff. A win-win situation. For someone !!

    And don't even start on the spying if you have it in the bedroom. Alexa asking 'I see you're getting frisky, do you need more condoms or headache pills tonight?' !!!!!

    1. Patrician

      "you are buying something that then sells you stuff. A win-win situation. For someone !!"

      Not really; it's only selling you something if you actually buy whats advertised. Otherwise it's *trying* to sell you stuff.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Amazon Echo was a hit

    I'd like to see some proof.

    1. Starace

      Re: The Amazon Echo was a hit

      Realise that A and S are next to each other on the keyboard and you get to the truth.

  9. Stoke the atom furnaces

    Clippy Reborn ?

    Microsoft Echo clone, "It sounds like you are trying to do some shopping, would you like me to bugger it up for you?"

    The results would be mildly interesting if I trusted Microsoft with my personal data.

  10. Scott Broukell
    Meh

    I'm tempted to buy all the available gadgets of this ilk and lock them away in the basement, where they can merrily chat away to each other, removed from all useful human activities.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes, please! Just chuck old Siri, Alexa, Cortuna, Bixby, and whoever else is out there into your basement and instruct them to "help me open help take me to the help thing" and close the door. That is such a better use case than having any one of them on the tabletop spying on your home "for the greater good" of random, anonymous, marketing people.

      1. Scott Broukell
        Meh

        (post script)

        On the other hand I am also tempted to develop an off-line AI assistant of my very own. I would call it the 'Rant-O-Bot' (TM) and keep it in 'My' shed. So that when the rest of the family are ignoring me by being absorbed in the latest drivel to come out of the Hollywood film industry, I could just tootle off to said private wooden structure, switch the thing on (in default late-night pub mode of course), and engage in a debate rich in profundities of almost certainly staggering proportions. Mind you, it would make more sense to just take the dog for a walk, again.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      I say we put one of them in each room at every funny farm and see what happens.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At the risk of being a kill joy, I can see sensible uses for this sort of gadget.

    e,g, you use Alexa skill set to ask for something, as well as answering you now, it can (assume) show you a picture to match.

    I know that basing Amazon is cool (and I do it), but *I* think this is the next logical step from voice recognition and we are probably going to buy one for development purposes (assuming my hypothesis of sending images back as part of the skillset JSON is correct).

    1. David Nash

      Sensible uses

      There are sensible uses, but who trusts Amazon, or (especially) MS enough?

      They could have been the ones who got famous for being responsible for that really useful gadget that you can talk to, but instead they are known for being responsible for gathering as much of your data as possible.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sensible uses

        And lest we forget the raging crime-boner the cops get when they find out they can just ask for the Amazon Cloud Spy Recordings® instead of dusting for fingerprints or other traditional, non-"seamlessly, integrating with your always-on digital lifestyle!" police work. Why not just provide a 24/7 video feed to all the idiots on Facebook and have your murderer be known right at murder time, instead of the traditional later on, if ever, cop time? Duh®.

        Also, please make sure you take your "seamlessly, integrating with your always-on digital lifestyle!" into the shower with you. I think that is okay.

        And don't forget to pick up some "seamlessly, integrating with your always-on digital lifestyle!" Brand Potato Crisps™ for your weekend bar-b-cue? On sale today at your local Tesco®.

        Oh crap, I just spilled an entire box of ® symbols over here! Sorry, this® is® getting® ®idiculous!®

    2. Alan Edwards

      They may have uses (not to me, I don't like voice control generally) but they need to fix the authentication before I'll even consider getting one. A device that can be taken over by a random voice on TV has no place anywhere IMO.

      At the very least the activation phrase should be customisable to anything, not just 'Alexa' or 'computer'.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Big Brother

        At the very least the activation phrase should be customisable to anything,

        "Open the pod bay doors, HAL"

  12. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Completely f**king pointless.

    See title.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Completely f**king pointless.

      You must be the Pound Shop/Dollar Tree equivalent of Word Merchants. How's business?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Amazon Echo is one fugly piece of kit...

    Who in their right mind would buy this? It looks like a reject from the Amstrad school of design, why not just use a tablet on a stand? Seems like Amazon's having another Fire moment.

  14. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Open the 'fridge door Hal ...

    ... Aw screw it, just have the drone deliver pizza and a nice fat joint, I'm OK for the evening.

    How about a remake of Lethal Weapon in the Trump 'verse with Martin Riggs putting a bullet through his Amazon Echo ... now I could watch that.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Open the 'fridge door Hal ...

      Also known as the 'Elvis remote'.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A few years from now anyone without one of these in their home, or who doesn't share everything to social media will be labelled an oddball, suspicious, possibly up to no good....

    There came a knock at the door.

    "Hello citizen, we're here to conduct a full search of these premises because a crime has been reported in the vicinity and you have opted out of our voluntary good-citizen 24h surveillance program."

    "But you were only here last week! I'm still tidying up after one of your colleagues ransacked the place."

    "Enough, move aside. Non-compliance is not an option."

  16. Khufu
    Alien

    Buns baps baguettes or bagels

    Just waiting for Talkie Toaster to appear in the IoT

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