In the early hours of Wednesday morning (for those of us living in Australia), Amazon held its 2021 Fall Hardware Event. But in case you missed it, Amazon announced everything from a tiny home assistant robot through to a more practical partnership with Disney.
This article was first published on September 28. It has since been updated with current information.
From the Fall Hardware Event floor in Seattle to your lounge-room in Australia, here’s everything announced.
The big wall-mountable Echo is here
The Echo Show 15 is the largest Echo Show yet:
- A 15.6-inch 1080p display
- 5-megapixel camera (you can obviously video chat on this thing, too)
- Customisable smart home Alexa widgets (these are new)
- It can be mounted vertically or horizontally
- Visually, it’s similar to the Samsung Frame TV, but a tad smaller
- It can be used to display photos or art
- Or your security camera feeds
- And will also support Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu and, starting later this year, Sling TV
- It’s also much more affordable (than the Frame TV) at RRP $399
It’s coming in 2022, but we’ll update you with Australian availability once it’s confirmed.
Amazon Astro: What if Wall-E but evil?
Astro is a tiny home assistant robot that Amazon executives menacingly described during the Fall Hardware Event as “our first robot, not our last”, which makes sense, given that this thing is so small and has so little utility that we likely still have at least three or four increasingly sinister iterations to go until we arrive at the cyborg assassins from Terminator.
Amazon predicts every home will have at least one robot. But this one will be connected to Alexa.
“We looked into the future and imagined what it would look like with ambient intelligence,” Kate Burleigh, Amazon Australia country manager of Alexa and Amazon devices, said during a local briefing. Astro can even be your companion for the next lockdown. Yikes.
Burleigh said it isn’t about price points and availability in Australia, rather sharing the tech. OK. Our U.S. friends can get one later this year for $US1,500 ($2,074), however. We’ll let you know when the creepy, yet cute, little guy comes down under.
Alexa-powered, basic smart thermostat
Amazon today announced an ultra-cheap, ultra-basic, Alexa-powered smart thermostat. Could it be a big competitor to the Nest?
The device does what you’d expect: it mounts to the wall and shows your home’s current temperature.
Its main selling point is that it has Alexa running in the background, which means you can automatically set up routines through the mobile app to adjust the temperature in your smart home.
Amazon describes it as a “smart, affordable Energy Star-certified thermostat that works with Alexa and gives customers a simple way to keep their home comfortable and energy efficient”.
The company worked with Resideo, who make Honeywell Home thermostats, to bring the product to life. This means it should work with most existing 24V HVAC systems.
Its retail price is $US60 (which is around $80), but Amazon isn’t bringing it to Australian homes just yet.
“HVAC and thermostat systems are quite different in Australia,” Burleigh said. “It does require us to do a lot of localised Australian development work, and we’re just weighing up ‘what are the most important devices to launch now?’ versus ‘what do we need to take more time on?’”
First-ever doorbell from Blink, plus extras
Today, Amazon announced Blink Video Doorbell. You might remember Amazon scooped up Blink back in 2017.
What you can expect:
- Starting at around $69 (Australian pricing and availability unknown at this stage)
- Wired or wireless installation (you can add a battery with a two-year life)
- 1080p HD day and night video
- Two-way audio
- Chime app alerts
- Ability to connect to and sound your existing in-home chime
Amazon and Blink also announced two new devices. The new Blink Floodlight Camera is a battery-powered LED mount that works with Blink Outdoor to deliver a smart floodlight security camera with 700 lumens of motion-triggered lighting. Blink Solar Panel Mount, also launching today, supplies a non-stop sustainable charge from the sun for Blink Outdoor.
Don’t hold your breath, though, the team is “still working on this” in an Australian context.
Amazon just built a mesh router into its home surveillance system
The Ring Alarm Pro combines Ring’s traditional security monitoring for things like fires, break-ins and more with a built-in Wi-Fi 6 router from Eero to create a whole-home security hub that can connect to a wide range of devices.
If this excites you, I’m sorry. “We’re working on it for Australia.” Ugh.
Australia, we’re getting Echo Buds
Something we are getting, however, is another entrant to the ear bud market. Yep, Australia is finally getting its hands on Echo Buds.
“Hands-free Alexa control on the go,” the company says.
- 5 hours of music playback
- 15 minutes charge gets you 2 hours of playback
- iOS and Android compatible
- Dynamic audio and active noise cancellation (ANC) – speakers deliver crisp, balanced sound
- Sealed in-ear design and ANC limit background noise
- All Alexa features
Amazon is taking pre-orders as of this morning, due to ship October 17.
Standard version will have a RRP of $169 and the wireless charging case model will have a RRP of $199.
Amazon, but on your wrist
The Halo Tracker was another piece of kit Amazon announced this morning during its Fall Hardware Event, and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s just a FitBit.
The Halo family welcomed three new additions during Amazon’s Fall Hardware Event: Halo View, a new health tracker with an AMOLED colour display for at-a-glance access to Halo health metrics; Halo Fitness, a new service with hundreds of workout classes; and Halo Nutrition, a new experience to help build healthy eating habits.
Amazon made a big deal about how the original Halo band had no display. The idea behind the tracker was to be less distracting when we’re all addicted to screens. But the display-free band wasn’t all that useful, so Amazon went back to the drawing board and added a screen with super chunky bezels.
Halo View, you guessed it, isn’t coming to Australia just yet.
The portal-like ‘Glow’ for kids
Amazon announced a new smart speaker/video chatting thing called Glow. It’s meant for kids to video chat with others who also have with Alexa-enabled devices, but in a controlled environment. It actually kinda looks like a comically large ’90s-era mobile phone.
During its Fall Hardware Event, Amazon said it “reimagines the way kids can connect with remote family and friends”.
“Glow creates a virtual experience that feels like being together in the same room,” it adds. “Glow blends digital and physical worlds to provide even more fun.”
The detail, at a glance:
- A vertical smartphone display in a giant speaker case
- 8-inch LCD screen
- Projects a touch-sensitive area that’s about 19 inches across
- One-year of Amazon Kids+ (with access to thousands of books and dozens of interactive games and art activities)
- Kids can share their “virtual space” in real-time using the Amazon Glow app
- Folks on the other end can use Alexa on an Android or iOS device (Fire OS compatibility coming soon)
- Object scanning allows kids to turn “everyday objects into digital fun” (think jigsaw puzzle or ‘fixing’ a hand drawn pic)
- Glow Bits learning kits, which is basically that Tangram puzzle game (expect more ‘Bits’ in the future, sold separately)
Access to Glow is currently invite only for U.S. customers, and if we do a quick conversion, it will set you back around $410. We’ll update you when Australian info becomes available.
Disney meets Alexa with Hey Disney!
Hey, Disney!, Amazon says, is a “magical voice assistant working alongside Alexa at home and at Walt Disney World Resort”.
Expected next year, Hey, Disney! will let fans and guests interact with some Disney characters by saying ‘Hey, Disney!’ on supported Echo devices.
Not just for kids, it will include interactive Disney storytelling experiences and entertainment, as well as stuff like jokes, fun facts and “special surprises” featuring Disney characters.
Hey, Disney! and Alexa will be available in Walt Disney World Resort hotel rooms as part of an upcoming integration using Amazon’s Alexa for Hospitality service.
Pricing is unknown just yet, but it’s expected the feature will be available as an Alexa Skill.
But Burleigh said Amazon is still working with Disney to see what its plans are for Disney and Disney+ in Australia. You should see more in the kids-directed area next year, however.
Alexa news channel comes to Australia and New Zealand
The U.S. has had this for a while, but now it’s coming down under from today.
Why does it seem Australia is missing out?
We asked, and here’s what Amazon’s Australia and New Zealand country manager for devices Patrick Walker said:
“We certainly put a lot of effort to make sure that we bring the products that Australians want to this market. I’m really proud to say that when we look at the lineup of a whole range of products across Echo for example, that we stand kind of shoulder-to-shoulder in terms of the range that we have here in Australia, the updates we’ve brought to those existing devices.
“We are always listening to customer feedback and, in the background, working hard on our internationalisation strategy of those products.
“I’d say ‘forever watch this space’, but you make us work hard to make sure we bring to customers the product that they want here.”
And there you have it. Everything announced while you were sleeping.