Amazon’s Echo speaker/intelligent tube/listening pal revealed a bit more of its true nature today: It can now field voice-powered buying requests, translating your spoken desire for more paper towels into more actual paper towels, for instance. The catch is that it’s restricted to Prime members, it only works with Prime-eligible goods, and you need both a U.S. billing address and a U.S.-based payment method.
To command your smart cylinder to conduct commerce on your behalf, all you need do is use your Wake word, then tell it to reorder whatever item you’re after. This is designed to be an easy way to order again things you’re often already buying rep eats of anyway, so ostensibly Amazon is positioning it as a convenience feature, not a full-fledged shopping alternative.
But you can actually order something new – to an extent. If Echo fails to find what you’re asking for in your order history, it’ll offer up an “Amazon’s Choice” alternative for that particular type of item, and provide you with pricing details, before giving you the choice to buy that instead. It’s not exactly fielding new requests, but if you pretend to be obtuse and order something you know full well isn’t in your order history, you should be able to get around that limitation.
Back when Echo first broke cover, Greg Kumparak theorized it was a thinly disguised tube of grease for Amazon’s ecommerce machinations. The online store has done a good job of keeping those elements of Echo’s existence mostly buried until now, but this is definitely a move in that direction.
With the option to create a confirmation code in place, I’d rather they just went all-in on this, allowing you to buy whatever you want with a simple spoken request, but I’m guessing that will follow soon if this limited early version of voice shopping works well.