A smart speaker is a type of wireless speaker and voice command device with an integrated virtual assistant (artificial intelligence) that offers interactive actions and handsfree activation with the help of one “hot word” (or several “hot words”). Some smart speakers can also act as a smart device that utilizes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other wireless protocol standards to extend usage beyond audio playback, such as to control home automation devices. This can include, but is not be limited to, features such as compatibility across a number of services and platforms, peer-to-peer connection through mesh networking, virtual assistants, and others. Each can have its own designated interface and features in-house, usually launched or controlled via application or home automation software. Some smart speakers also include a screen to show the user a visual response.
As of winter 2017, it is estimated by NPR and Edison Research that 39 million Americans (16% of the population over 18) own a smart speaker.
Amazon Echo is a brand of smart speakers developed by Amazon.com. The devices connect to the voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant service Alexa, which responds to the name “Alexa”. This “wake word” can be changed by the user to “Amazon”, “Echo” or “Computer”. The device is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic and other real-time information. It can also control several smart devices acting as a home automation hub.