Amazon Unveils Devices for Gaming, Autos and Smart Home

Amazon announced new smart home devices during its fall hardware event last week, including an expanded Fire Stick collection, redesigned Echo speaker lineup, and Ring in-home drone. Amazon is also launching its Luna cloud gaming service, and introducing Car Cam and Car Alarm to Ring’s lineup. Alexa’s capabilities have expanded, from being able to read books to children to a new security feature, Guard Plus, that can detect sounds around a user’s house and trigger dog-barking to scare off intruders. In times of COVID-19, said Amazon head of devices and services Dave Limp, “our homes have become our offices, our classrooms, movie theaters and more.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that Amazon “unveiled a cloud-gaming subscription service, joining Microsoft and a handful of others in giving people the ability to stream video games over the Internet.” The service, Luna, will initially have 50+ “mostly older” games, be accessible via computers, mobile devices and Fire TV and cost $5.99 per month. Gamers will also have an option to buy a $50 custom controller. U.S. gamers will have “early access” to the service starting Thursday but an official launch date wasn’t announced.

Amazon’s flying security camera, Always Home Cam, priced at $249, will “turn on only when it is operating” and targets people who may want to use it when they’re not at home. Amazon’s new camera-enabled alarm system for cars, priced at $199.99, begins recording when the user says, “Alexa, I’m being pulled over.” The alarm can also “sync with its Ring security system [whose video will be encrypted] and is able to trigger cameras and sirens.”

“When something happens, you want to be able to record right away and not necessarily have to be fumbling around with your device,” said Ring president Leila Rouhi. Amazon also debuted a “new lineup of Echo smart speakers; priced at $99.99 for the flagship model, the new Echo includes one with a clock and another version for children.

WSJ notes that, “to extend its reach in certain markets, Amazon has undercut rivals in the past with sales and discounts for its devices and hardware, occasionally selling products at cost to gain acceptance among customers … [or] to steer consumers toward services such as a Prime membership.” Loup Ventures analyst Gene Munster said that, “Amazon’s strategy puts less pressure on the company to establish hardware hits compared with Apple.”

The New York Times reports that the Ring Always Home Cam, a “compact, lightweight, autonomously flying indoor camera gives even greater visibility when you’re not home.” Tech product reviewer Walt Mossberg reacted by tweeting, “in a country with no laws regulating digital privacy, anyone who buys this from a company with a history of privacy problems is insane.” The Twitterverse agreed with him, with one user stating, “an Internet connected drone camera for your home, owned by Amazon. this definitely won’t be a privacy nightmare *at all*.”

Amazon’s Dave Limp noted the camera comes with “two-factor authentication and end-to-end encryption” and that the drone was in response to “consumer interest in indoor security cameras.” But a Ring disclaimer stated that the device “had not been authorized by the Federal Communications Commission,” and would not be available “until authorization is obtained.”

Engadget’s take on the Amazon hardware event, including images and product details, can be found here.

Amazon’s New Echo Show Will Soon Support Netflix, But What About Other Streaming Services?, Gizmodo, 9/24/20
Amazon’s Fire TV Stick Lite Brings the Price of Alexa-Powered Streaming Down to $30, CNET, 9/24/20
A Closer Look at Luna, Amazon’s Cloud Gaming Service, Engadget, 9/24/20

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