Amazon's Echo smart speakers are about to get a lot smarter. An upgrade to Matter – an open-source standard platform – should make Amazon's smart speakers work with more voice assistants, not just Alexa.
Matter is the new name for Project Connected Home over IP (or CHIP for short). It's a coalition of big-name companies including Amazon, Apple, Google, Samsung, the Zigbee Alliance, Philips and dozens more. Its aim? To make smart home devices like smart speakers work with all voice assistants, including Apple's Siri, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Matter will run on Ethernet Wi-Fi, Thread, and Bluetooth Low Energy.
Almost all of Amazon's Echo smart speakers will get the upgrade to Matter, including the fourth-generation Echo and Echo Dot, every Echo Studio and Echo Show, Echo Plus and Echo Flex. The only ones that will miss out are the first-gen Echo, first-gen Echo Dot and Echo Tap, an Amazon spokesperson has told The Verge (opens in new tab).
Matter should launch later this year, so let's hope Amazon's update arrives at the same time.
Amazon's Echo speakers are getting other upgrades, too. There's now a more masculine-sounding voice, triggered by the wake word "Ziggy" (as spotted by The Ambient (opens in new tab)). And widgets are coming to Echo devices with screens.
These can be made by third-party developers and could let you check items off a to-do list or activate a skill's functions without needing to say "Alexa" first.
Featured skill cards are a way of promoting content through Alexa, whether you want it or not. Recommendations will be tailored to your Alexa use. And developers will be able to sell products through their Alexa skills using Alexa shopping actions.
You'll be able to start your Alexa experience on your Echo device and continue it on your phone, using Send to Phone. McDonald’s UK, Twitter, Husqvarna, Iberia Airlines, Cookpad, and Lysol will be some of the first brands to connect their mobile apps with Alexa skills.
There's more info over Amazon's blog post (opens in new tab), so check it out if you want a deep dive.
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