Our mission to help you navigate the new normal is fueled by subscribers. To enjoy unlimited access to our journalism, subscribe today.
Amazon introduced several new products on Thursday, ranging from upgraded versions of its flagship Echo Internet-connected speakers to an indoor surveillance drone.
The online retail giant’s unveilings on Thursday underscores Amazon’s self-described “ambient home” strategy. It’s another way of describing the “smart home,” in which household appliances and home entertainment equipment are wirelessly tethered together via the Internet.
For technology giants like Amazon and Google, it’s a potentially lucrative market. In addition to selling the devices themselves, the companies collect data about how people use the devices and what they do in their homes. That information is a marketer’s gold mine that could help the companies better target customers with ads or suggest products they’re likelier to buy. It can also help the companies decide which new services to offer, like music or game streaming.
“The home has always been important, but perhaps it’s never been as important until this COVID crisis,” Amazon senior vice president of Alexa Tom Taylor told Fortune.
At the center of Amazon’s smart home strategy are voice technologies, exemplified by the Alexa voice assistant. Amazon wants customers to control their homes merely by using their voices, including by using voice-technologies from competitors like Spotify, Facebook, and Garmin.
Increasingly, Amazon is introducing features other than voice-technologies to make more compelling smart-home gear. For instance, Taylor highlighted a new Echo Show video conferencing device that can move around a table to follow people while they talk. Amazon says it makes for more natural online conversations because people don’t have to sit still.
Here are some other products Amazon debuted.
Amazon’s new surveillance drone
Amazon’s new Ring Always Home Cam is a camera-equipped drone that flies inside homes, like a security camera with propellers.
The company pitched the drone, which costs $250 and will ship sometime next year, as a way for people to see what’s happening everywhere in their homes without having to buy and install several surveillance cameras.
In effort to reduce privacy concerns, Amazon said the drone’s cameras will only record when flying. Additionally, the company said that the drone was deliberately designed to be loud, so that people know when they’re being recorded.
Of course, for many privacy advocates, surveillance drones capturing people’s every move is a dystopian nightmare. Asked about the privacy implications, Taylor said, “We don’t think people should have to choose between privacy and innovation.” However, he conceded, “not everybody may choose to have some of these products.”
Amazon’s security partnership with Tesla
Amazon also debuted several new car security systems under its Ring brand that will be available sometime next year.
The Ring Car Alarm, which will cost $60, is Amazon’s take on the traditional car alarm, and it comes with features like location tracking so people can remember where they parked.
The Ring Car Cam security camera, which costs $200, is similar to the Ring Car Alarm but it comes with a video camera so people can see live video feeds, in case they want to scan for thieves while not away from their cars.
The Ring Car Connect system, which also costs $200, integrates with the various cameras and sensors like back-up assist cameras in newer cars to convert them into security cameras that link to the Ring smartphone app, among other features.
While Tesla is the first auto company whose automobiles are compatible with the new Ring Car Connect system, Taylor said that the new product will eventually work with cars sold by other manufacturers.
Amazon’s new cloud gaming service
After years of rumors, Amazon finally detailed its cloud-gaming service Luna, which lets people stream certain video games to devices like personal computers without having to buy a video game console.
“We really think it can bring more people to gaming,” Taylor said, adding that “high-end gaming can be expensive.”
Currently, there are no exclusive games on the new service. People can sign up for a trial version of Luna for $6 monthly and get access to games like the retro Sonic the Hedgehog game and Resident Evil 7, and eventually, more games like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla through a partnership with game developer Ubisoft. Amazon didn’t say when an upcoming Ubisoft game channel would be available or if it would cost extra.
Amazon is also selling a game controller that lets users more easily play streamed games, similar to Google’s Stadia cloud video gaming service, which debuted in November.
More must-read tech coverage from Fortune:
- These 5 apps are up-and-comers with Gen Z, report says
- Want to know how to WFH better? There’s a class for that
- Instagram’s would-be TikTok killer, Reels, struggles to gain traction
- Tesla lays out path to an electric car cheap enough for most people
- Facebook users in Illinois can now apply for a privacy payout of up to $400