Amazon’s ‘Echo Show’ Gives Alexa the Touchscreen It Needed

2017.05.13 02

THE AMAZON ECHO is a stupendously powerful device. It can control your lights, play Ed Sheeran jams, keep a to-do list, check the weather, order pizza, tell guests your Wi-Fi password, and so much more. But as you embrace this chatty-computer future, you begin to see its limitations. Sure, you can book a flight with your voice, but it’s so much easier when you can see the price chart. You can set six timers, but can you remember which one just went off? Voice-only games are fun, but not as fun as a game you can see and touch.

Hype aside, voice control is not a replacement for screens, but a complement to them. As Apple’s Phil Schiller recently said, “There’s many moments where a voice assistant is really beneficial, but that doesn’t mean you’d never want a screen. So the idea of not having a screen, I don’t think suits many situations.”

That’s what makes Amazon’s newest Echo, the $229 Echo Show, a smart move. It’s an Echo … with a screen. The Chumby lookalike exists mostly to talk and listen, but glance at the screen and you’ll notice that as it reads your calendar events, it displays them, too. When it announces that the Warriors won, it shows you the box score. It lets you interact with almost everything by touch or by voice, using whichever one you find most convenient. The speaker gets loud enough to rattle the kitchen counter, you can see the 7-inch screen from anywhere, and the far-field microphone array works just as well as the Echo. Plus, the setup couldn’t be simpler. Plug it in, connect it, done.

Amazon’s ‘Echo Show’ Gives Alexa the Touchscreen It Needed

AirBar is a USB device that adds a touchscreen to laptops

Feel like you’re missing out because your laptop doesn’t have a touchscreen display? No problem. You can give it one for just $50, and you don’t have to remove a single screw to do it.

Next month at CES, a company called Neonode will be showing off the AirBar to the massive Las Vegas crowd. It’s a simple, slim USB peripheral that attaches to the bezel of a laptop. Once you’ve plugged it in to a USB port AirBar blankets your display with “an invisible light field,” which Neonode refers to as “zForce AIR technology.” It sounds pretty cool, and also a lot like the infrared big-screen add-ons made by Keytec.

AirBar doesn’t require any special software to work its magic. As long as it’s connected to a Windows 7, 8, or 10 machine — or a Chromebook — it’ll just work once it’s been plugged in. Neonode is still working on Mac support, but it’s coming.

AirBar is a USB device that adds a touchscreen to laptops