Smart speakers have morphed from entertainment tools to serious lifestyle managers.
There is one application of Artificial Intelligence, which is already touching lakhs of Indians, though they may be unaware: Voice-based Assistants, to be found in smart speakers available for the home.
Amazon has been a pioneer in this arena -- launching the Echo speaker in India, two years ago, with Alexa voice as its centrepiece. Since then it has launched four variants --including mini versions like Echo Dot as well as screen-based models like Echo Show. Now it has gone upmarket -- with the new Echo Studio, its largest smart speaker yet, with audio quality to match.
Like the Echo Plus, it includes the additional function of a hub for all compatible home devices --Philips and Syska lighting, TP-Link routers and appliances like microwaves, security cameras and air conditioners. Where it scores 'bigly' -- to use the current Trump expression -- is in superior audio. The Studio has three 2-inchmid range speakers pointed in three directions, a 1-inch tweeter and a downward facing jumbo 5.25-inch woofer. That is a lot of audio bang for your buck and can serve the largest drawing room. Filters adjust the sound to the room size and shape and a recent feature lets you whisper your commands, if others are sleeping. The Alexa version launched in India is an asli desi behn and understands shudh Hindi as well as Hinglish.
Standard features like hands-free calling and access to music services like JioSaavn, and Hungama are there. The WiFi access is equivalent to 802.11ac. The Studio is 3.86 kg and sits solidly in a7-inch diameter cylinder. Responding to recent privacy concerns, is a feature where you can switch off the microphone. In an upcoming change, you can soon delete all voice recordings automatically after a set period. Echo Studio retails for Rs 22,999 at Amazon. A premium product with premium audio.