Last Thursday, Amazon quietly introduced Amazon's Choice, a new feature for the Internet-connected Amazon Echo speaker that will allow the unit to automatically order items in response to a voice command.
Echo, a $199 smart device, is basically a personal assistant like Apple's Siri. You "wake it up" with your buzzword and ask it to set reminders, play streaming music and look up simple Internet queries. Thanks to the new software update, you can now tell it to buy stuff for you: Just say "reorder toothpaste," or whatever it is you want.
As Wall Street Journal writer Greg Bensinger explained, when you tell the device you need more toothpaste, it'll dig through your Amazon order history to see which brand you've ordered before. If it sees you've ordered Aquafresh, it'll send you more Aquafresh. Otherwise, it will suggest a brand of Amazon's choosing.
If Echo finds that you've ordered toothpaste before, it'll confirm the current price with you and ask, "Should I order it?" If it doesn't find your toothpate preference, it'll say, "I didn’t find that in your order history, but Amazon’s Choice for toothpaste is [product name]. The order total is $[price]. Should I order it?"
That second option is particularly interesting. How does Amazon determine which product it'll recommend? What makes Echo more inclined to offer one brand versus another? It's not clear, and a representative for Amazon did not respond to a request for comment from The Huffington Post.
But spokeswoman Kinley Pearsall told the Journal, "Amazon’s Choice offers are selected with a variety of factors in mind, ranging from rating to shipping speed."
Naturally, that brings up other questions: Could a group of individuals damage a product's likelihood of getting ordered by flooding a page with negative reviews, as has happened in the past? Doesn't Amazon Prime guarantee the same shipping speeds across eligible products?
Regardless of the answers, it's clear that Amazon is keen on making it as easy as possible to get products from major brands. Echo has always allowed you to add items to a shopping list, though the ability to directly order things is new. And the company's recent Dash product allows you to order things like Bounty paper towels with the touch of an actual button, which you can place anywhere in your home.
So, the latest update to Echo is no real surprise. In fact, it was basically predicted back in November by Techcrunch writer Greg Kumparak.
"One-click purchase becomes no-click purchase. Your entire house (or at least, anything within earshot of Alexa) becomes the impulse-buy candy shelf from the grocery store’s checkout lane," Kumparak wrote.