Amazon’s first Super Bowl ad campaign puts Echo on display

Sitting in the shadows for 22 years, Amazon has finally taken its first steps into the Super Bowl marketing madness. Underlining this move is the company’s voice-controlled device Echo. The wireless gadget features speakers and a microphone, and it has its own digital assistant, “Alexa,” to provide users with auditory information. It reads your feed from Twitter out loud for example. But the company has only hit an enthusiast market so far. It looks like it’s now ready to remedy the situation and aim for a mainstream audience.

Echo launched last June, and was marketed as a daily assistant with a given place in every home. Indeed, it wasn’t carried around like the other digital voice assistants you keep in your pocket. Amazon believes that your portable voice controlled assistant is not as capable as it should be. The Echo, for example, is always listening, which provides some opportunities for interaction you can’t always have with your phone. To always be able to simply ask Alexa for help isn’t something the average consumer can expect out of their phones; not without unlocking them via fingerprints or PIN codes first.

But reaching out to a mainstream audience isn’t easy, and it isn’t cheap. A 30 second video advertisement during Super Bowl 50 will cost as much as $5 million. Considering its sheer size and capital, those sums aren’t too much for Amazon to handle. In fact, it’s most likely an easier decision to make than some might think, especially for the sake of a technology that the company has already invested so much in. The company introduced “The Alexa Fund” last year, offering a total of $100 million divided amongst various developers. Slowing down isn’t something on its mind, and three days ago the company announced that Spotify Premium members would be able to use the music streaming service by talking to Alexa.

David Mitchell Smith of IT research analyst firm Gartner, said that the cost and lack of understanding could be something that’s keeping people from investing in the device. “It’s a tough sell to get people to shell out $179 for a piece of hardware that they can only see does the same thing as Siri,”

But while Amazon hasn’t revealed any numbers on the success of the device vice president of Amazon Devices, Neil Lindsay, said the company is “thrilled with how the product’s been received.” He continues, “We’re showing Echo in this Super Bowl campaign because we think being able to control your lights, order a pizza, or listen to music with only your voice is magical, and we wanted to show that in action,” he said.

The company might also hope that this helps sell the rumored smaller, cheaper version of the device said to be launching soon. Combined with the improving reviews the device has been getting as it gets continually updated the company might have an opportunity to reach beyond the niche audience the device has found so far.

Computing

In the age of Alexa and Siri, Cortana’s halo has grown dim

In a sea of voice assistants, Cortana has become almost irrelevant. The nearly five-year-old voice assistant is seeing little love from consumers, and here’s why it is dead.
Smart Home

Samsung lets slip that its Galaxy Home speaker will be here by April

Samsung has been teasing customers about its Galaxy Home smart speaker, powered by the Bixby digital assistant, for some time but after neglecting to mention it at Galaxy Unpacked, the company let it slip that it's coming in April.
Smart Home

OK Google, what else can you do? The best tips and tricks for Google Home

The Home functions in a similar fashion to its main competitor, the Amazon Echo, but has the added benefit of select Google services. Here are few tips to help you make the most of the newfangled device.
Smart Home

What exactly is Alexa? Where does she come from? And how does she work?

While "Alexa" has become synonymous with products like the Amazon Echo, you can't actually go out and buy an "Alexa." So what is Alexa? How does she work? Here's everything you need to know about Amazon's virtual assistant.
Emerging Tech

FDA warns about the dangers of anti-aging blood transfusions

It turns out injecting old people with blood from healthy youngsters may not be the answer to health rejuvenation. That’s according to the FDA, which says such claims are dangerous junk science.
Emerging Tech

Bees can do arithmetic, setting the scientific community abuzz

A new study has found something remarkable: Bees can do basic arithmetic. Researchers showed that bees could use colors as representations for numbers and then use those colors for addition and subtraction.
Emerging Tech

DeepSqueak is a machine learning A.I. that reveals what rats are chatting about

Want to know what rats are squeaking about? You'd better check out DeepSqueak, the new deep learning artificial intelligence developed by researchers at the University of Washington.
Health & Fitness

Immune cell discovery takes us one step closer to a universal flu vaccine

A group of international researchers have made a discovery which could take us one step closer to the universal, one-shot flu vaccine that people around the world have been dreaming of.
Photography

NASA celebrates Earth’s incredible natural beauty with free photo book

NASA has published a fabulous new book featuring stunning imagery captured by its satellites over the years. A hardback version is available for $53, though it can also be downloaded to ebook readers for free, and enjoyed online.
Deals

This new all-in-one flashlight is a power bank, lighter, and screwdriver

The Pyyros modular flashlight can perform numerous field tasks, from hammering to starting fires. If you back it on Kickstarter now, you can score some savings on this innovative flashlight and multi-tool, but act fast: This early-bird…
Movies & TV

Hilarious new Kickstarter aims to fix Scorcese’s last scene in The Departed

A fan of The Departed and apparent hater of rat-as-symbolism imagery has launched a Kickstarter campaign to digitally erase the rodent from the end of Martin Scorsese’s 2006 movie.
Emerging Tech

Baristas beware, Bbox cafe uses robots to brew your morning coffee

Want your morning coffee and pastry prepared by robot? Bbox, a new coffee shop in downtown Berkeley, California, lets customers place their order by app and then uses automation to take care of the rest.
Emerging Tech

This ridiculous new flamethrower makes Elon Musk’s look like a cigarette lighter

The XL18 Flamethrower is a flame-shooting beast on steroids, capable of firing off bursts of flame more than 110 feet in length. The best part? You can order it over the internet today.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX just nailed its most challenging Falcon 9 rocket landing to date

If you've been following the SpaceX launch calendar, you know this week marks the first launch from Cape Canaveral in two months. We have the details on where you can watch the launch live.