At the end of 2020, Amazon introduced several devices for the home: from a camera that flies around the house to monitor a speaker with a screen capable of turning on itself and remaining in view of the user at all times. This is the Echo Show 10. While the majority of attendees on the market remain static, this device is characterized precisely by its rotation system: it is capable of detecting a person and following them as they move around the room and make a video call, see a movie or follow a recipe.
EL PAÍS has tested the Echo Show 10 for a few days, which is available in two colors —white and charcoal— for € 249.99. It is the most expensive assistant on Amazon. The device has a 10.1-inch touchscreen with quite pronounced bezels. From behind, this screen is attached to a bulky cylindrical speaker reminiscent of the Echo Studio and is covered with a mesh fabric.
The setup to start using the device takes just a few minutes. After connecting it to a power outlet, follow the instructions on the screen. The user must choose how far he wants the device to rotate. Or what the e-commerce giant calls “device mapping.” If you put it in the middle of a table in the living room, you probably want it to be able to turn around on its own. But if you leave it in a corner or next to a wall, you may prefer that it only move to a certain point.
Ideally, this mapping should be done each time the speaker is placed in a different location. The goal of Amazon is that the user can interact with Alexa regardless of the part of the room in which he is. The appliance rotates smoothly and silently thanks to a brushless motor. The tracking it performs is quite accurate. But it is not perfect. When it’s close enough or the room is dark, it sometimes fails. In addition, depending on the tastes of each user, it can sometimes become dizzy if it is activated all the time.
The user can choose whether they want the speaker to rotate continuously or only rotate during certain activities – for example, when making video calls or viewing multimedia content – or at a certain time. “Alexa follow me”, it is possible to order the device if the latter alternative is chosen. The screen, in addition to rotating, can be tilted slightly up or down manually.
To activate this tracking function, it is mandatory to have the camera uncovered. Inserting a device with a microphone and a camera at home can cause some reluctance. Especially considering that some data protection experts advise against them and that, sometimes, they are activated by mistake. Amazon says the Echo Show 10 “has been designed with multiple layers of privacy control.” The device includes a physical button to turn off the microphone and a built-in cover to cover the camera. “The processing that triggers screen movement occurs within the device, no image or video is sent to the cloud to use the motion feature,” says Jeff Bezos’ company.
The device has a 13 megapixel wide angle camera in the upper right above the screen. The user can use it to make video calls. To do this, you need to link your Skype account with Alexa or that the caller has another Echo Show device or the app Alexa downloaded. In the tests carried out by this newspaper, the video calls have been quite fluid and clear. One of the strengths of the device is that the camera rotates and makes zoom automatically on the user as they speak so they are always in the center of the frame.
Speakers and display
The Echo Show is, above all, a device designed for entertainment. When the screen rotates, so do your speakers. This is quite useful in order for the user to hear the sound equally clear even when moving around the room. The speaker emits a powerful and fairly good quality sound. There is hardly any distortion and vibrations when playing music are practically negligible. By requesting songs from Alexa, it is possible to read the lyrics on the screen as they play. Amazon also allows you to activate the multi-room music function, which is used to play songs at the same time on several compatible Echo devices.
The user can also request the assistant to play movies from Amazon Prime or Netflix or to show him recipes published on platforms such as Cookpad or Cocina RTVE. You can also watch YouTube videos, although the experience when trying to find them is quite improvable. It is only possible to access the video platform through the browser and usually you have to end up using your hands to play the desired video. The screen quality is sufficient for playing movies or videos in the background while performing other actions such as cooking or cleaning. But it is not the most suitable screen to watch a movie lying on the couch.
In addition to playing multimedia content, on-screen assistants promise to serve users to be more productive. The Echo Show lets you set kitchen timers, set alarms, check the calendar, create reminders, watch the news, check the weather or the results of a soccer game, or make a shopping list. Although in general the Echo Show 10 understands the orders that are given to it well, on rare occasions it does not quite find out. When this happens, for example when playing some games, it can become a bit exasperating.
Like other competing devices such as the HomePod mini or the Google Nest Hub, the new Amazon assistant is also designed to control other smart devices in the home with your voice: from security cameras to lights or thermostats. “Alexa, show me the front door”, “Alexa, turn the lamp on to 50%”, “Alexa, set the thermostat to 20 ° C” or “Alexa, lock the back door” are some of the orders that could be requested to the device – as long as the corresponding smart devices are available.
In addition, the assistant can be used as a remote surveillance camera. “An indicator will be displayed when someone in the home is transmitting the video from the camera,” warns the device before activating the function. When consulting the camera from app From Alexa on mobile, the following message appears on the Echo Show: “A family member is looking at your camera.” Anyone present in the room can press a button that says “stop” to stop sending that image.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.