The general perception that smart speakers work best in your home, whether it’s for music playback, getting news briefings, linking with third-party apps to book cabs, or cricket scores, may no longer hold true. For Amazon Alexa, the virtual assistant in the Echo smart speakers, is making a beeline for your workstation.

The Echo Spot, the latest addition to Amazon’s Echo line-up in India, does everything that the Alexa assistant manages on the other Echo speakers, and, in fact, moves the interaction a level higher by including a visual element. The design of the Echo Spot is unique—it looks like a clenched fist. It comes in two colours, white and black.

The Echo Spot has a 2.5-inch round LCD screen (480x480 resolution). This isn’t large, but then the idea is to make the screen available for personal use, not for watching movies or TV shows. A round display is never ideal for extended video viewing anyway. Nevertheless, Amazon does tout those capabilities too, including the ability to zoom in to videos. However, given that Amazon and Google have been in a long-drawn disagreement, YouTube isn’t available on the Echo Spot.

One of the unique features of the Echo Spot is the video-calling capability—there is a video camera that sits just above the display. You can call colleagues or friends who use an Alexa device or have the Alexa app on their phone.

Alexa-to-Alexa calling works smoothly even if the recipient is taking the call on their phone app using the mobile network connection. The second calling feature is called Drop In. Here, you and a colleague, friend or family member can instantly call and connect with each other without the need for a separate call dialling step. You and the other party need to approve this on the individual Alexa apps for the instant Drop In calling feature to work. If you still get into a situation where a Drop In contact calls at the wrong time, the first 10 seconds of the video-call feed remain blurred, giving you enough time to react and disconnect. You can also do room-to-room calling, ideal if you wish to ping a colleague while using this in office.

One of the unique features of the Echo Spot is the video-calling capability.
One of the unique features of the Echo Spot is the video-calling capability.

There are other ways in which Alexa as well as the Echo Spot can be used productively in office. Alexa can manage your calendars (Google Calendar, Outlook, Office365 and iCloud), keep up to date with the to-do lists (work with apps such as Any.Do, Todoist and AnyList), work as a timer to remind you to get up from your workstation every once in a while and take a stroll, even play ambient music.

If privacy is a concern, there is the option of muting the microphones and disconnecting the built-in camera: The Echo Spot does not see or hear anything till you re-enable these.

Music is where things get a bit complicated. The audio hardware inside the Echo Spot is only a tad better than the smallest-sized Echo speaker, the Echo Dot—instead of a 0.6-inch speaker, this has a 1.4-inch speaker, but there is no woofer for low frequencies.

There are four microphones inside the Echo Spot, and it is able to listen to your voice even from a considerable distance. The Echo Spot costs Rs10,499—the display and unique design do come for a premium, but the productivity and fun on offer make up for the price tag.

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