If you’ve been meaning to re-up on toner for your printer, or perhaps paper for the new cover sheets you now have to slap on all your TPS reports, then you might as well shove an Amazon Echo speaker in your shopping cart to make checkout a little less … depressing? First reported by SlashGear, Amazon is now hawking its Alexa-infused Bluetooth speaker through Staples’ online store, right along with its Kindle e-readers, Fire tablets, and Fire TV streaming devices.
The move is the latest in a string of developments for the smart speaker, which leverages a voice-controlled personal assistant named Alexa to make summoning everything from streaming music to — what else? — buying stuff from Amazon just that much easier.
Amazon first released the Echo on a limited, invite-only basis in November 2014, presumably as part of a covert beta-testing effort meant to determine how people would react and interact with the cloud-based smart speaker. It took seven months, but Amazon ultimately began offering the Echo to the masses this past June.
During the time the speaker enjoyed “cool club” status, Amazon added features to the speaker that went beyond music playback and answers to questions based on Wikipedia articles , including hands-free shopping, audio-book reading, and sports score updates. Perhaps the most relevant addition to Alexa’s capabilities over this time period, however, was that of smart-home device control. As it happens, the Echo will play very nicely with Staples’ own Connect smart home hub. See? It’s all coming together.
In a rather surprising move, Amazon opened up Alexa’s API to software developers, making it possible for others to integrate the same cloud-based personal assistant in myriad devices.
There’s no indication the speaker will ever make it into Staples’ retail stores, so for now you’ll just have to imagine what it’s like to have Alexa living in your home, hanging on your every word and beaming them to the cloud; or you could just pick one up at Staples.com for $180 and find out for yourself.
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