According to Bloomberg, Amazon’s hardware team had been working on a futuristic augmented reality vision as far back as 2010, imagining a household where consumers would interact with holographic images in their homes through voice and gestures.
At some point the team, in the interest of showing some commercial manifestation of that work, popped the voice recognition technology into a Bluetooth speaker, bringing it to market in November 2014 as the Amazon Echo, powered by the Alexa digital assistant.
Seventeen months and millions of devices later, Amazon has a sleeper hit on its hands that has left typically skeptical technology reporters bubbling with praise.
One of the reasons that the Echo sneaked up on us all is that it defies a neat description.
To call it a Bluetooth speaker with a microphone and a voice-controlled user interface is accurate, but belies its impact.
Selling this product at its typically low (or no) margin, Amazon has planted a digital home hub, e-commerce order taker, personal assistant, digital jukebox, and, yes, speaker, in millions of homes.
Doubling down on its investment, this March Amazon expanded the line of Echo products to include a portable version of the Echo called the Tap and a smaller wired device that connects to external speakers, called the Dot.
In the following white paper, we will explore the following questions: