In a surprise announcement Amazon reveals what is surely its oddest product yet-- the Echo, a black cylindrical speaker that is actually cloud-powered, voice-controlled, always-on virtual assistant.
Essentially the Eco is a lot like Apple's Siri, but within a piece of hardware. It promises room-filling sound via 360-degree speaker, and carries 7 microphones paired with beam-forming technology and "enhanced" noise canceling to hear speakers from any direction, even while it is playing music.
As for actual functionality, an adorably awkward video shows the various uses the Echo can find, such as assistant duties (wake up alarms, shopping lists, reminders, news, weather information), the answering of queries via Wikipedia, unit conversion, music playback (from Amazon Music Library, Prime Music, TuneIn and iHeartRadio). Powering all is the Amazon cloud, to which the Eco connects via mobile device and companion Echo app.