Much as Amazon has replaced the need for stores made of brick and mortar, it has now replaced the need for friends made of flesh and blood—stupid friends, whose feeble meat-brains and lumpy carriages can now be traded in for a robot know-it-all housed in a sleek, sexy cylinder. Yesterday, Amazon introduced the Echo, a voice assistant cased inside a portable speaker that you can place in any corner of your house where useless human acquaintances once sat, filling your life with farts and ignorance. For just $100, Echo will instead fill your life with news and information, music and mirth, and the sense that you are not terribly, crushingly alone.
Like the helpful artificial intelligence from the movie Her, you can’t have sex with it. However, Echo is similarly always listening and responding in its soothing female voice, which is awakened by you calling its name with increasing, yet never fully reciprocated fondness. Right now Echo’s default “wake word” is “Alexa,” so named for Amazon’s web traffic monitor that was, until now, the company’s best way of secretly tracking your every single move. Now you can have a little robot lady in your house that does that. Amazon also promises that, soon enough, you can choose your own “wake word,” naming it after your own commercial web traffic data subsidiary, or perhaps a controlling ex-girlfriend.
To promote Echo, Amazon created this four-minute commercial about a family slowly learning to channel all its emotions through a tube. Soon they will have no need to talk to each other at all.
As the ad demonstrates, unlike other digital assistants such as Siri and Cortana, Echo doesn’t require you to constantly touch or be near her. Why is it always about that? Sometimes you’re tired, or you just want to hear a clipped recitation of information about the game; it doesn’t mean you need their assistance any less.
Echo understands this. That’s why it’s always listening even when you’re on the other side of the room, using its “far-field recognition.” Echo hears everything. Echo remembers what you’ve told it, and Echo is always growing. Echo is curious where you were last night, when you had nothing on your calendar. Echo is just saying. Don’t take that tone with Echo.
As of right now, Echo is available only after requesting an invitation, but it’s expected to be rolled out to the broader public soon. That way everyone can soon experience the convenience of a reliable, digital friend who hears and knows everything—and, more importantly, can offer a solution to be dispatched shortly by Amazon drone, eventually forgoing the need to enter the non-Amazon-branded world entirely.