Amazon unveils Kindle Scribe with stylus and Halo Rise sleep tracking

Amazon hopes to deepen its reach in your home, with new products to track your sleep, run your TV, and even help you scribble notes while you read.

At its annual product launch event, streamed online Wednesday, the tech giant unveiled an unusually short lineup of new and updated products. Among the dozen devices that seem most ready for the holidays: a version of its Kindle e-reader called Scribe that comes with a stylus for taking digital notes – and a bedside lamp called Halo Rise that serves also alarm and a futuristic way to collect data on your sleep.

A unifying theme of many updates is an effort to make often disparate Amazon electronics work better with other Amazon electronics. Its Echo Dot talking speaker can now act as an extension base station for its Eero mesh WiFi products. His Echo Show device now runs software that looks like a Fire TV, and an Amazon-branded Fire TV called Omni now doubles as a giant Echo speaker for your wall, complete with its own far-field microphones to hear every time. you say the wake word “Alexa”.

Many consumers are used to thinking of Apple as the gadget maker that is also an ecosystem, where all products work together seamlessly. Increasingly, Amazon is trying to get consumers to think about it too, but for home life, and with its artificial intelligence Alexa as the connecting fabric.

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The new products also give Amazon more ways to collect data about your home, family, and even your body — surveillance, the company says, makes them more proactively useful. During the event, Amazon senior vice president Dave Limp touted the “ambient intelligence” capabilities that come from Amazon mining all that personal information. For example, the new Halo Rise bedside lamp contains touchless sensors that monitor the nighttime activity of the closest person, which Alexa can use to automatically adjust lights and thermostats elsewhere in the house.

One thing missing from this year’s Amazon event was new products that sounded way off — and maybe half-baked. Over the past few years, Amazon has announced a home robot called Astro, a home surveillance drone called Always Home Cam, which are still not sold to the general public. The Astro robot made an appearance at Wednesday’s event to introduce new software features, including the ability to serve as a remote security guard. (There was still Nope word on when Amazon will actually sell it to the big one.)

Here are the four new and updated Amazon products that caught our attention the most.

(Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Kindle Scribe: an e-reader on which you can write online

First, a new black-and-white Kindle e-reader you can doodle on. The Kindle Scribe takes the traditional Kindle design and adds features that turn it into a digital notebook. The 10.2-inch device comes with a new stylus so you can take notes on a book you’re reading, right on the screen. There are also options for journaling or writing checklists and even taking notes during a meeting or class. Oddly enough, there are two “pen” options: basic and premium. That means you’ll have to pay an extra $30 to get the fancier stylus that can erase or highlight and includes a button for shortcuts.

As with many of its other product categories, Amazon has dueling tablet brands. Kindle, the old, is for e-ink tablets that have until now focused on a very narrow use case: reading. Its Fire tablets are its low-cost color Android devices that are packed with apps and distractions. The appeal of the Kindle has always been that it strives to do less, with a battery that lasts longer. While adding a new feature the ability to write with a stylus – can be a problem for a real tablet (and is in fact already a common feature on most tablets), it’s a big deal for Kindle users.

The Scribe will be available in late November and will start at $339.99.

Halo Rise: An alarm clock that just wants to watch you sleep. Hush.

The Halo Rise is an alarm clock with sensors to monitor your sleep. It doesn’t have a camera or microphone, but that doesn’t make it any less capable of gathering detailed information about what’s going on in your room at night. It is able to read the room – well, its temperature, humidity and amounts of light.

Amazon says it can also track your breathing and movement at night, using AI to determine where you are in your sleep cycle so it can give suggestions for improving sleep quality. It uses this information to wake you up at the optimal part of the sleep cycle, when you are a light sleeper. When the time comes, it will wake you up with the soft light of a sunrise. Amazon says the device will use all of this data to give you a summary of your night, including how long you slept.

While Amazon’s Halo line of products has a theme, it experiments with all the data it can collect about you in sometimes unsettling ways. The Halo Band, a wearable device released in 2020, used voice analysis to judge the owner’s tone and 3D body scans to guess their body fat percentage. After the first six months, Halo Rise will require a $3.99 monthly membership fee for Amazon’s Halo service, which includes an app and health information.

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The Halo Rise will retail for $139.99 when it releases later this year.

Amazon has also expanded its line of Eero networking gear, which now includes a device that will extend the range of a home WiFi network without having to be plugged into a wall outlet. (Instead, it draws valuable power from the Ethernet cable it uses to connect to the Internet.)

But what’s more interesting is how Amazon incorporates some of this networking technology into some of its more popular and more modest products.

The company’s latest versions of the Echo Dot speakers won’t just tell you when your packages will be delivered, they’ll also serve as WiFi network extenders in homes that already use Eero routers and access points. Amazon says these new Echo speakers can add “up to 1,000 square feet” of range to a home wireless network, and eventually it plans to release a software update to launch similar functionality built into the speakers. -fourth generation Echo Dot speakers. sale in 2020.

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The idea of ​​mixing a smart speaker and a WiFi range extender isn’t exactly new; Google’s Nest WiFi extenders have built-in speakers and microphones for Google Assistant. The big difference? Price: The new Echo Dot speakers start at $49.99, while these Nest add-ons are $149 each.

TVs that sense your presence

Like a dog happy to see you, Amazon’s latest TVs – the Fire TV Omni QLED series – can come to life as you walk into the room.

These TVs start at $799 for the 65-inch model and rely on a low-powered radar system to detect movement in front of them. And once they turn on, they start acting much like Amazon’s Echo smart displays. Lily.

Amazon says this feature is on by default, though you can customize its sensitivity or turn it off altogether. And for what it’s worth, this radar system can’t identify anyone in front of it – all it can do is discern when somebody is there.

And while Amazon’s TVs take inspiration from its smart displays, its smart displays learn new tricks from TVs. Thanks to an incoming software update, the Echo Show 15 – a large, wall-mounted smart display the company started selling late last year – will turn into something of a tiny TV, with support for remote control and media streaming apps from Amazon.

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