Coming this fall: Amazon will be listening to us more than ever

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SEATTLE — To step into one of the Amazon Go stores here is to enter a retail experience unlike any other, anywhere.

You can gain entry only by swiping your smartphone app. And no money or credit cards are ever exchanged inside. You just pick up the items you want, throw them in an optional bag, and then walk out the door. 

Amazon knows what you just bought, because it has dozens and dozens of cameras and sensors around the store, tracking your every move.

It’s a trade-off one has to make – the joy of a hassle-free retail experience that makes one feel almost like you’re shoplifting, weighed against being the most tracked shopper in history.  

 

Clearly, consumers don’t mind being watched. This was another huge week for the e-tailer, in which it reportedly looked to expand the Go concept from the three stores in Seattle and 1 in Chicago to 3,000 nationally. 

And if you think we’re being watched in the store, just wait until Amazon’s new product line, announced Thursday, enters our homes in the coming months. In case you didn’t get the memo this week, Alexa has heard you loud and clear. It just wants to listen to you more. And often. 

The Echo connected speaker has been a surprise hit, a basic kitchen radio that plays music, reports the weather and news and sometimes operates our home automation systems by having its built-in microphones ready to pounce. All you have to do is say “Alexa” to wake it up, and Amazon records your interactions with the personal assistant. 

(Amazon says it records and archives our Alexa Interactions, “to provide, personalize, and improve our services.”)

New editions of the Echo connected speakers have been redesigned for style, but the effect remains the same. We put Alexa products into our homes, and so there are now more microphones picking up what we say in more rooms.

A clock and microwave that connect to Echo speakers, an eight-microphone dongle for the car to bring and record your Alexa commands as you drive, a new security camera that listens to sounds outside the home to better alert you. For the kitchen, a new Echo Show, the speaker with a video screen, is the product I expect Amazon to push most heavily for the fall. It’s been massively upgraded with a bigger 10-inch screen, more mics and richer speakers, essentially killing the tabletop TV that didn’t listen in with a device that does.

Amazon is not shy about its ambitions. “We want you to have access to Alexa everywhere,” said Tom Taylor, an Amazon senior vice-president in a news release. “In your kitchen, in your living room, in your office and now in your car or truck.”

Privacy be damned. At its huge press event here this week where it had 70 different product announcements, it didn’t say a word about privacy. 

 

In other tech news this week

—Apple launched two new editions of the iPhone and a revamped smart watch Friday. Reviews for the new $1,100 iPhone XS and $1,000 XS Max were muted, with many saying they were mild upgrades of past models. USA TODAY’s Edward C. Baig said they were just “incrementally better,” Critics raved about the new 4th edition Apple Watch, with Baig calling it a worthy upgrade with excellent health features. (While Apple will probably end up selling 200 million or more units of the new iPhones, students we spoke to this week weren’t so eager to upgrade. Check out their interview here. 

—The latest edition of a Spider-Man videogame sold a record 3.3 million copies in the first three days of its release this month. At $59.99 for the game, the 3.3 million copies translates to roughly $198 million, crushing the $117 million opening weekend box office of the latest solo Spider-Man film, “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

—Action camera maker GoPro revealed its update to the Hero line, with the Hero 7 Black touted as having footage so steady, it’s almost drone-like. We took it for a test drive – while on Rollerblades and a bike. And though, no, it doesn’t come close to a drone, it’s way cool and the best Hero we’ve seen yet. 

 

This week’s Talking Tech podcasts

 

—Don’t say stupid things in texts

—Best iOS 12 feature — auto password manager. 

—Is the new iPhone XS Max sexist? 

—Apple Watch review

—Students sound off on new iPhones

—Review: I love GoPro’s new, steadier GoPro Hero 7 Black

—Amazon fall product download

 

Thanks for reading the Talking Tech newsletter. You can subscribe at http://technewsletter.usatoday.com. Be sure to listen to the daily Talking Tech podcasts on Stitcher, Apple and Google Podcasts, and follow me (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. 

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