June 19, 2021

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Amazon analyzes what makes Echo Frames special – and what’s next



CNN

First released to the public last year, the Echo Frames are smart glasses in a traditional-looking shape. No wild lenses like on Snapchat Spectacles or a mini projector like on Google Glass. In our review last December, we found that Echo Frames did a good job showing the futuristic perspective of having Alexa at our beck and call when and where. At $ 250, however, they weren’t the cheapest. Especially with Warby parker offering frames and lenses for $ 100.

Amazon now has three new goals that can be matched Echo Frames: blue light and two lenses for sunglasses. To discuss this launch along with how Echo Frames came about, CNN Underscored had an exclusive chat with Jean Wang, the director of Echo Frames. We started with two new variations of the Frames and touched on the development of Amazon’s smart glasses.

Amazon

Amazon is now rolling out three new lens options for Echo Frames. Blue light lenses, polarized black lenses for sunglasses is blue mirror sunglasses lenses are now available for $ 269.99. None of these change the intelligence enclosed within; they are just different types of lenses in the same frame. And you can still get the regular Echo Frames with blank clear lenses for $ 250.

These models offer a new entry point for potential Echo Frames customers as they respond to user feedback – we even asked where a Blue Frame option was. our review.

“We thought about providing utility and pleasure for customers who don’t naturally wear prescription frames,” says Wang. Amazon aims to offer an all-in-one solution from the moment you order. You won’t need to replace your regular Echo Frames lenses with a blue light or sunglasses option. However, those who need prescription lenses will still have to do so.

Blue light filtering and sunglass options are coming at a time when many in the US are poised to get back into business after more than a year of lockdown due to the pandemic. It makes sense that Amazon will launch a pair of street Echo Frames, with polarized (and cool looking) blue mirror finishes.

Adding blue light lenses is welcome, as it reduces the amount of blue light emitted by devices like phones, tablets, and laptops that can hit the eye. In real use, it should reduce eye strain for people who have to stand in front of a screen for long periods of time. We haven’t tried the new lenses yet, but they look pretty sharp in renders and photos.

Wang and the Amazon team wanted the final product to be familiar, knowing that a good percentage of users would likely be prescription carriers. He noted that the design process included “a lot of interaction with optometrists [and] opticians to see how they fit and to make it just as perfect. ”

That way there wouldn’t be a lot of extra work to fit properly Echo Frames for a user or to install prescription lenses. We followed this process with our first day editions and the final product. Amazon includes an optometrist card in the box with Echo Frames, detailing the correct ways to style the glasses and install the lenses. Wang further explains that they have tested different versions of the card to encompass all the crucial details and make it one complete solution. And in our experience, it wasn’t all that difficult. We took our Echo Frames to our personal optometrist and asked if they could do the installation. There have been some looks and questions about what smart glasses are, but after that it was a standard turnaround of just a few days to install the frames.

Jacob Krol / CNN

A key part of our conversation with Jen Wang was “why smart glasses?” and what exactly? Frames offer to the daily user.

“We have this kind of North Star vision for technology that allows customers to interact with the real world to be able to hear their surroundings while giving hands-free access to Alexa and all information, content and services it provides, “says Wang. And that’s in line with our testing: With microphones, built-in speakers, and an internet connection courtesy of a smartphone, Echo Frames gave us instant access to Alexa. It’s a similar experience to an Echo smart speaker or smart display.

It sums it up pretty well as “technology that’s really there when you need it and fades into the background when you don’t need it.” While you’re out and about, you could ask Alexa to create a list, add something to your Amazon cart (or even buy it), play music, or send an ad to connected speakers. It’s the classic Alexa experience but centralized and privatized for you.

For example, instead of pausing an Echo that could play throughout the house, you can simply ask your Frames for the query personally. Or, if you are at home with family or friends, you can make a personal request without disturbing others. It’s also a great way to send a surprise broadcast to your other Alexa-enabled devices. The best interactions from our tests, however, happen on the go, as you can create a list or make any other requests completely hands-free.

Alexa actually picks up your voice through two microphones that are located towards the front of the hinge on Echo Frames. Wang explains that “it brings the microphones much closer to your mouth than normal earphones”. It powers the Alexa experience and lets you hear your voice in a variety of environments, whether you’re whispering to yourself at a desk or giving commands in a noisy train station.

Open-ear speakers are located on the left and right stems of the Echo Frames to project audio in a personal bubble around you. And while earphones have made speakers smaller and smaller, “the speakers are actually bigger,” as Wang explains. “[The sound transmission] it is far from your ear and generates a sound like in the sphere. ”To fill that space, you need a larger speaker that is still user-specific. Since not everyone around you needs to hear what you are saying, Wang notes that “we have optimized our sound quality for vocals, which is not too bass heavy and should not be distorted for loss.” And this complete speaker, along with the rest of the hardware, was designed in-house by Amazon.

And this attention to audio quality was one of the three key parameters that Wang explained to us. Leakage and Loudness were the other two keys. He involved Wang, along with his team, in rehearsing Echo Frames in a variety of scenarios. Some of them could be recreated in a test laboratory, while others required that they be made public. “There were times when we were all walking down the street together trying to prevent the person wearing the Frames from being seen by other people because we were a confidential program. Definitely a fun time to test or try to be discreet, “Wang describes. Eventually, after testing the outside and inside, they found” a sweet spot where we can mask the loss (i.e. some might hear from Echo Frames), but still make the wearer feel “.

In our tests we found that Echo Frames hit quite well, while Bose frames they end up transmitting too much sound at times. This ended up disturbing our colleagues in the office and other commuters on the train. Wang shares that the commercial is about 12-18 decibels of sound. This level must be high enough for the end user to have fun as well.

Jacob Krol / CNN

Echo Frames feature a rounded rectangular lens which is meant to be a one size fits all for all types of people. Amazon has tested a lot of shapes – “from more masculine shapes, like aviators, to more feminine shapes, like cat eyes. What [was] very attractive ended up being this rectangular shape, “says Wang.

In fact, Wang explains that “they have increased the height of the lens aperture and its width to accommodate larger populations.” It’s a smart decision, and it also reduces the amount of different SKUs Amazon has to ship. This approach is different from Bose, which offers multiple frame styles (circular and rectangular designs) which can appeal to different users. However, you don’t have that choice with Echo Frames, even on new lens styles.

Likewise, it is a one-size-fits-all solution for the Echo Frames themselves. In our tests, we noticed that the Echo Frames had a somewhat brittle feel even though carbon fiber, aluminum, and a TR-90 plastic were the materials at stake. They are light glasses at 31 grams, but they flexed a little more than our tastes. “The possibility of not having a rigid front frame, so to speak, but the spring hinge [Amazon’s proprietary design] allows [it] to fit more types of face sizes and shapes, “explains Wang. Considering you can’t go to a store and fit for Echo Frames, it makes sense that they should go for a wider build or at least one with more flexibility.

Amazon

“I fundamentally believe that technology should help us be more human or be able to interact with each other. And so I think it’s part of the foundation of Echo Frames, which is creating something that helps us engage with what matters most in our lives, “says Wang. More than any other Amazon Device product, Frames stands out as a product inherently. staff that the team really needed to get.

However, Echo Frames are not an instant purchase for everyone for $ 250. These three new lens options solve the problem of “well, if I don’t wear glasses, they’re not for me”, but they are also most expensive at $ 269.99. We asked about the potential for a low-priced pair, but Wang says “we will continue to listen to customers and see what makes sense there.” So no promises, but we may see something in the next generation. Historically some Amazon devices, such as Echo and Fire TV streamers, have seen lower starting prices across the board.

“These are smart frames that are alive in a way that, you know, they can get updates, they can improve their intelligence,” explains Wang. And unlike a typical pair of glasses, Echo Frames it gives you access to Alexa, music on the go, stories, news and really anything you want to ask the assistant.

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