Among Amazon’s line-up of new Alexa devices were two more experimental products. One was the Echo Frames. The other is a smart ring called the Echo Loop.
Now, we know what you're thinking: Echo Ring would have made more sense as a name. The problem is that Amazon already owns the Ring smart home company, which would risk confusion. So, Echo Loop.
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The Loop certainly feels like the most “out there” device the company launched at its big September bonanza. The smart ring has a microphone and speaker built in, so you hold it up to your mouth to speak and up to your ear to hear Alexa’s responses.
Already you’re probably imagining what this will look like, and even amongst the gaggle of tech journalists trying to get a look at Amazon's new products, I felt a bit of a tool.
The ring is made out of titanium, is available in four sizes and just one color: a dark charcoal. If you get onto Amazon’s invite-only program for the Loop, you’ll be sent a fit kit so you can select the right size.
To talk to Alexa you have to press a small button on the side of the ring with your thumb, and wait for the small vibration to tell you Alexa is listening. It means you don’t have to say “Hey Alexa” every time you want to talk to it, which makes it less prone to accidental activations – and a little less awkward when out in public.
I said earlier there was “a” microphone but there are actually two – the other is listening to the space around you and blocking out ambient noise in order to help Alexa hear you more clearly.
And the good news is that Alexa’s responses can come through any headphones you have connected to your phone, rather than necessarily through the ring itself. Just as well, because we did struggle to hear Alexa in the busy demo room – and were told the ring was at full volume.
There was one last trick. You can set it so a double tap of the button will dial a top contact of your choosing. What's less clear is how much calling will hammer the battery life. Amazon told us the Loop can get a day of power from a single charge with infrequent interactions.
The Echo Loop is one of Amazon’s most experimental products yet, but it makes no bones of that fact. We are more persuaded by the glasses, but for those who don’t want frames on their face, and fancy a more wearable Alexa, the Loop is certainly a neat concept. It just doesn’t feel ready to be more than that.
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