Amazon just took the wraps off the latest — and largest — addition to the Echo Show family. The Echo Show 15 takes the company’s smart screen technology to the wall in the form of a 15.6-inch 1080p display that doubles as a massive digital picture frame.
The $250 device is certainly a novel approach to the growing line that presently includes the Echo Show 5, Echo Show 8 and the Echo Show 10 (also priced at $250), which raised some eyebrows with a rotating screen that follows its subject around the room. The new device ups that particular ante with the addition of Visual ID, which utilizes facial recognition to identity a subject and offer them custom-tailored content.
The experience is built around a customizable home screen designed to serve as kind of a control panel for the Alexa home ecosystem. This is largely accomplished through customizable widgets, which let you add things like calendar events, to-do lists and recipes — effectively serving as a kind of digital whiteboard or collection of refrigerator magnets. The list also includes smart home controls, including feeds from security cameras and digital doorbells, which are housed as a single widget.
One thing the Echo Show 15 has in spades is a whole lot of real estate. That means you can get a whole bunch of different information at once, though a tiling effect or the use of picture in picture, when your in a specific service and, say, a video doorbell alert pops up. Really, it’s the dream of something like the cover of Samsung’s smart refrigerators, without having to having to shell out a few thousand bucks for an appliance with some cameras built-in.
Beyond that, the device can do pretty much anything you’d expect from an Echo Show at this point, essentially working as a big kitchen TV. That includes streaming Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu and Sling TV. That last one is coming soon, along with content from TikTok, which you can now watch on a 15.6-inch screen, if that’s your thing.
Image Credits: AmazonThe 1080p screen is coupled with side-firing speakers. Those will probably do the trick for short clips, but you’re probably going to want to connect to another Echo or Bluetooth speaker if you intend to stream music or watch movies or TV for any length of time.
There’s a camera on-board, built into the sizable bezel — or the “mat,” if we’re keeping up with the picture frame terms here. I do appreciate the use of a white border in this case, which highlights the presence of five-megapixel camera in the upper corner. The presence of a virtually hidden camera can, no doubt, prompt further privacy questions, but at least here it’s a visible black circle on a white background, next to a flashing 15.6-inch screen.
The device can be used to video chat, which could ultimately make the product an interesting proposition as Amazon pushing its Alexa for Business offering as a method for incorporating more of its hardware into work settings. I could see a product like this serving as a (relatively) low cost teleconferencing device for companies with a tight budget and numerous conference rooms. When not in use, it could give you the weather and corporate events or room bookings on the calendar. Will be interesting to see if Amazon goes more aggressively after IT departments here.
There’s a physical shutter button on board to cover the camera — but anecdotally, I’d say that if I was staying at an Airbnb with one of these installed, I would be the guy who unplugs the thing and turns it to face the wall. Of course, I was also the guy who was supremely weirded out by the Echo Show 10’s face pivot feature, so take that as you will. When Amazon announced the feature last year, they were quick to note that it wasn’t using specific facial details for the tracking.
Amazon is quick to note here that Visual ID requires the user to opt-in and enroll their face. Users can delete their profile on-device or via the Alexa app if they have second thoughts. I anticipate the feature will become ubiquitous across the company’s various Show products with built-in cameras. The display is powered by Amazon’s newly announced quad-core AZ2 chip with an on-board neural processor — the successor to last year’s AZ1. The custom-built chip is designed to do much of the processing on-board, which means it won’t send Visual ID data to the cloud. Given Amazon’s long track record with face recognition, however, the feature will still, no doubt, raise concerns among privacy advocates.
The Show 15 sports an update to the Sound Detection feature that rolled out in beta earlier this year. At launch, the offering was designed to detect specific noises, such as broken glass or crying baby, at which point it sends an alert to the account holder. A new addition called Custom Sounds, meanwhile, can effectively train the system for alerts by asking the device to listen.
The Echo Show 15 runs $250 and will be available later this year. I can’t speak to build quality here, having not actually seen the product up close, but for the pricing, one would hope for something more than just a scaled up digital photo frame — especially given the fact that it’s designed to hang on a while or sit on a counter or table all the time. It’s effectively the antithesis of early smart speakers, which were more or less designed to fade into the background. Countertop stands and cabinet mounts will be available as well, but sold separately.