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Innovation

Amazon will bring Echo to Australia, New Zealand next year

Amazon has today announced that Amazon Echo will be available in Australia and New Zealand early next year.

The smart speaker is powered by Amazon’s AI technology, Alexa, which lets users search the web, play music, get the news, check the weather, control other smart devices in their home and more, using just their voice.

According to a statement provided by Amazon, “Echo connects to your Wi-Fi network and uses far-field voice recognition with an array of seven microphones to clearly hear you around the room. Advanced beam-forming technology combines the signals from the individual microphones to suppress noise, reverberation and even competing speech.”

The company currently offers a range of Echo devices, including some that have screens, online and through retail partners like Best Buy in the US.

The smallest of the devices, the Echo Dot, was recently the best-selling item in the US on Cyber Monday, according to the e-commerce company.

“The customer response to Alexa and Echo has been incredibly positive, and we’re excited to make them available for our Australian and New Zealand customers early next year,” said Toni Reid, vice president of Amazon Alexa.

The news comes one day after Ebay Australia and Google announced a partnership that will allow consumers to use their Google Home devices to search for items on the marketplace.

It reflects just how important voice has become as an interface for consumers to conduct activity online.

Indeed, Amazon has invested heavily in Alexa and its range of Echo devices in recent months, slashing the price of the smart speaker on Prime Day in July, offering early discounts to customers who searched for products using voice and experimenting with new offers like Echo Look, a smart speaker that can take a picture of the user’s outfit and offer styling advice.

The company will also make its Alexa Skills Kit available in Australia and New Zealand next year. This includes a collection of self-service APIs and tools that make it easy for developers to create new voice-driven capabilities for Alexa.

In addition to offering skills from Uber, Spotify, Philips Hue, LIFX and more, Alexa will also have skills from Australian developers including Sky News Australia, Fox Sports, Qantas, Dimmi, Taste.com.au and Coastalwatch, and New Zealand developers like Air New Zealand, TVNZ, Newstalk ZB, New Zealand Herald, SKY TV and ZM Radio.

Amazon said developers at these organisations have received an early preview of ASK and are already building Alexa skills.

Another service, the Alexa Voice Service, will enable developers to integrate Alexa directly into their products, making it possible for any number of hardware manufacturers to build ‘smart’ lights, appliance and more.

Brands including Harman Kardon and Sonos plan to release Alexa-enabled products.

“We also look forward to helping new and existing developers create innovative Alexa experiences for customers by expanding the Alexa Skills Kit and Alexa Voice Service to Australia and New Zealand,” Reid said.

In addition, Amazon is also launching the full catalogue of its on-demand music streaming service, Amazon Music Unlimited, in early 2018. When paired with Alexa, customers can ask for music by artist, song title, curated playlists and more, simply by voice.

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