- Amazon is holding an event on Wednesday where it will likely debut new Echo hardware and other Alexa-enabled devices.
- The company is rumored to be working on Alexa-enabled earbuds to rival Apple’s AirPods and a home robot with Alexa built-in, among other gadgets.
- The product unveils come as Amazon has been under increased scrutiny in recent months regarding how it handles user data and concerns that its size and influence may harm competition.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
SEATTLE, Washington — Amazon is holding an event at its Seattle, Washington, headquarters on Wednesday where it’s widely expected to unveil new devices across its Echo and Alexa lineup. The event comes as Amazon has come under increased scrutiny in recent months over consumer privacy and concerns that its size and influence may be giving it an unfair advantage in the market.
Amazon hasn’t said much publicly about what the event will entail. But if it’s anything like last year’s keynote, we can expect to see a slew of new products with Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant built-in, from new Echo gadgets to household appliances. In September 2018, Amazon debuted a bevy of new Alexa-enabled products in an event that was flooded with hardware announcements ranging from a microwave that can respond to your voice commands to new Echo speakers and an Alexa-enabled wall clock. The company also announced additional Alexa features, like its Alexa Guard security service.
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Not only is Amazon expected to release an updated, high-end version of its popular Echo speaker, but it also may expand into new product categories entirely like wearable devices and home robots, according to Bloomberg. The company, for example, is preparing to debut a new set of Alexa-enabled earbuds that would rival Apple’s AirPods, Bloomberg reports.
Doing so would give Amazon’s digital assistant more of a mobile presence, an area in which Alexa falls behind competitors like Apple’s Siri and the Google Assistant. While Alexa is available via a smartphone app, virtual assistants made by Apple and Google are baked directly into the operating system, making them more tightly integrated into the phone’s software and providing easier access.
But Alexa does dominate the home: as of January 2019, Amazon accounted for 61.1% of the smart speaker market in the United States, according to a survey from Voicify and Voicebot.ai. However, Google is catching up quickly with 23.9% of the market, a notable increase from its 18.4% US market share in January 2018.
Amazon is also reportedly working on a new wrist-worn device that could identify the wearer’s emotional state as well as a roving Alexa robot that could follow you around the home, according to Bloomberg.
The announcements would come at a critical moment for Amazon. The company, as well as other large tech firms, has been closely watched by regulators over concerns that its size and influence makes it difficult for newcomers to compete in the market. In July, the Department of Justice announced it would launch a broad probe into top online platforms for search, ecommerce, and social media to determine whether such companies were stifling innovation.
When it comes to Alexa, Amazon found itself caught in controversy after a report from Bloomberg revealed that human contractors had been listening to and annotating Alexa recordings. The company subsequently released new features that make it easier to delete such recordings from Alexa devices.
We’ll be updating our live blog below throughout the event, so follow along to learn about the news as it’s announced.