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Definition: Amazon Echo

A family of devices from Amazon.com that combines a wireless speaker, music streamer and virtual assistant in one unit. The Echo speaker connects to a music source via Bluetooth and also streams music from the user's local music collection, Amazon's libraries, iHeartRadio and TuneIn. Introduced in 2015, the Echo is very popular, and several versions followed (see images below).

"Alexa - What's the Capital of Maine?"
Always connected via Wi-Fi, when any of the Echo's seven microphones hears the word "Alexa" from across the room, it "wakes up," emits an audible signal and waits for a question. Because of this wake word, most people call it "Alexa;" however, the wake words "Amazon," "Echo" or "computer" can be used instead.

Alexa Intercom
In 2018, Amazon added intercom capability that lets people broadcast one-way messages to all the Echo devices in the home ("dinner is ready!"). Rather than every Echo in the house playing the same music, a group feature was added that allows devices to play their own tunes.

The Echo App
Available for desktop and mobile devices, the Echo app guides the user through device setup and logs all questions and answers. The app also manages a to-do list, timer, alarms and music sources, and it can be used to ask a question. See Alexa Voice Service, virtual assistant, Bluetooth speaker and Amazon Dash.

Echo Virtual Assistant for the Home
Echo accepts verbal commands from a distance. This first model was superseded by the Echo Plus in 2017 with a built-in hub for smart home devices such as lights and door locks. The regular Echo was then made shorter. (Images courtesy of Amazon.com.)

Echo Dot in 2016 and Kid Friendly in 2018
The Dot has a small speaker and must be hooked up to a sound system for room-filling music. To activate the unit, a button is pressed as it does not respond to a wake word. A red, green or blue Kids Edition (upper right) includes a one-year subscription to books, movies, TV shows, apps and games geared to kids. (Images courtesy of Amazon.com.)

Amazon Tap - 2016
A little smaller than the full-size Echo, the Tap is primarily for music. Rechargeable in its cradle, the Tap is meant to travel and connect to a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. (Image courtesy of Amazon.com.)

Echo Spot - 2017
With capabilities similar to the big Echo, the Spot can serve as an alarm clock or kitchen timer as well as a video calling machine with other Amazon users. It can also display the output of a security camera. (Image courtesy of Amazon.com.)

Echo Show - 2017
The Show is a stationary device for entertainment, video calling, information and smart home control. For example, a verbal command might turn on music, dim the lights or switch to the babycam. (Image courtesy of Amazon.com.)

Echo Look - 2017 - How Do I Look?
Ask Alexa to take a picture and see yourself on your smartphone. Submit two photos, and Style Check will tell you which outfit looks best. The Look will also play music with its built-in speaker. (Image courtesy of Amazon.com.)