Amazon announced Wednesday (Oct. 4) that its Echo speaker, powered by voice-activated digital assistant Alexa, is now available in India and will be coming to Japan later in 2017. According to a press release, the company said Indian consumers will gain access to Alexa and the Amazon Echo by invitation only.
“Millions of customers love Alexa, and we’re thrilled to introduce her to our customers in India today and Japan later this year,” said Tom Taylor, senior vice president of Amazon Alexa, in the press release. “We’re also excited to expand the Alexa Skills Kit and the Alexa Voice Service, so developers and hardware makers around the world can create localized Alexa experiences for our Indian and Japanese customers.”
According to Amazon, the devices will begin shipping in India later in October, and Alexa and Echo will be available in Japan later this year.
The announcement comes as Amazon just refreshed its line of Echo devices ahead of the holiday selling season. Late last month, the company announced the new Echo, which will sell for $99, and the Echo Plus, which will be priced at $150. The newest Echo includes the latest update to the Alex-powered speaker, covering regular Echo functions and acting as a smart hub for various internet-connected devices within the household.
The new Echo boasts an improved interior with an upgraded speaker system intended to enhance sound quality. The Echo Plus also includes “second-generation voice-recognition technology” along with seven microphones, beamforming technology and noise cancellation so Alexa can hear users' commands from anywhere, even when music is playing. When Alexa Voice Services hears the instruction “Alexa, discover devices,” the Plus will be able to “see” and link to nearby smart light bulbs, security cameras and appliances.
Amazon reports that at launch, the Plus will work with more than 100 smart home devices, and each Plus will come with one Philips Hue smart lightbulb this holiday season.