Amazon Alexa gets intimate, in your ear, with Echo Buds

With Echo Buds, Amazon's new earbuds will make Alexa personal, offering directions and helping customers find the right aisle for a product in a Whole Foods store. (Amazon)

Coming on Oct. 30, voice assistant Alexa could be whispering sweet little nothings in your ear through new Echo Buds announced by Amazon on Wednesday.

Really, the new $130 wireless Echo Buds earbuds with Alexa will play music, offer navigation and calling and can even be used to tap into your phone’s native voice services such as Siri or Google Assistant. In other words, Echo Buds are voice assistant agnostic—truly diplomatic.

Amazon has begun taking pre-orders of the Echo Buds with shipments on Oct. 30 and offers a demo of “top things to try” on its web site.

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When the user says, “Alexa, find a nearby coffee shop” while on the go, she comes back with “Here are a few nearby coffee shops.” Or a user can ask, “Alexa, what song is playing?” to get an answer. Users can request a ride-share, a guided workout or order a dinner.

Alexa is not much different on Echo Buds than she was on Echo devices already on the market and first introduced in 2014. Amazon already commands about 70% of the smart speaker space, according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners and others.

Now, Amazon is betting a voice assistant on the go through earbuds will garner sales. Because the earbuds are a personal item, they can be used for health and exercise and might even be used for promoting products when a user is in a store. Coming later in 2019, Amazon said a user will be able to ask Alexa if Whole Foods Market has an item a customer wants and she will be able to tell you if it’s in stock and in which aisle to find it.

The earbuds require a wireless connection to an Apple or Android phone with the Alexa app installed. They feature a battery that lasts five hours per charge, and can get two hours with a 15-minute charge. Amazon calls them “exercise ready” since they are sweat-resistent.

They include Bose Active Noise Reduction technology and come with two outer microphones and one inner microphone that reduce ambient noise so that Alexa can hear the user in a crowded market.

The Echo Buds were just one of eight new Echo devices unveiled on Wednesday, including Echo Frames and Echo Loop, which are available by invitation only. Echo Loop is a smart ring for accessing Alexa on the go, for $130, and Echo Frames are all-day glasses to access Alexa for $180.

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