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亚马逊音箱音质太差,新品将有所改观

JP Mangalindan 2019年10月13日

亚马逊公司的一位高管称,高品质音质不应只是少数精英人士的专属。

亚马逊的Echo音箱在近些年来获得了各种赞誉——实用、讨人喜欢、便宜,但说到音质,容易让人联想到刮玻璃的声音。

这家电商巨头希望在11月7日改变这一现状,届时,兼容Alexa的最新音箱Echo Studio将与世人见面。这个8.1英寸高、6.9英寸长的圆柱形音箱能够播放明亮的高音、浑厚的中音和澎湃的低音,它足以打动音频达人,填满一卧室的公寓更是不在话下。亚马逊Echo和Alexa设备业务副总裁米利阿姆·丹尼尔称,实现这一目标一直是亚马逊长期计划的一部分,而这距离亚马逊推出第一代Echo音箱已经过去了近五年的时间。

丹尼尔说:“高品质音质不应只是少数精英人士的专属,这些人会花费成百上千美元,有时候可能是十几万美元,来获得某种沉浸式体验。”

虽说如此,但我们难以确定Echo Studio在销量方面是否能够与苹果的HomePod以及Sonos One抗衡。不过这款高端产品的定价为199美元,相当给力,亚马逊在2007年发行首款Kindle电子书时便已奉行这一定价理念。因为亚马逊一再强调,公司的意图并不是从硬件方面赚钱,而是培养使用亚马逊服务的群体。(在历史上,亚马逊一直依靠其他业务盈利,例如Amazon Web Services。)

这也是为什么亚马逊最近的产品声明给人留下深刻印象的原因。当然,这里也有一些新品,例如Echo Studio、Echo Show 8和带表盘的Echo Dot。但真正吸引眼球的是亚马逊更具野心的设备:基于Bose技术的降噪耳机Echo Buds、整合了Alexa的眼镜Echo Frame,以及通过点击按钮就可以启动Alexa的古怪指环EchoLoop。无论它们今后在市场上的表现如何,但这些设备都在响亮而又清晰地宣讲着亚马逊更加宏伟的蓝图,即将其服务延伸至每一个家庭、每一辆汽车和每一个人。

丹尼尔在谈论9月25日内容丰富的声明时表示:“当你开始思考哪些构成因子可能较为合适时,我们发现每个人的构成因子不尽相同。”

她说,人们希望Alexa无处不在,不管是在车里、在外步行,还是搭乘公交、遛狗或上班。当他们进入这些空间时,他们希望Alexa能够提醒他们把垃圾扔了,或从干洗店把衣服拿回来。

自从Alexa于2014年面世以来,亚马逊和它的合作伙伴已经销售了超过1亿台可以使用Alexa的设备,包括无线音箱、智能钟表、恒温器,甚至是芳香散发器和马桶。同样,这家位于西雅图的科技巨人也一直在积极地拓展Alexa的功能,将其“技能”或会执行的任务数量翻了一番。在今年9月,这个语音助手会执行的语音同比增长了10万个。这些新技能包括:讲述并理解印度最流行的语言印度语,帮助Alexa用户向其选择的美国总统候选人捐钱。

但随着Alexa的热度不断上升,隐私顾虑也是越来越突出,其导火索是2018年3月的Cambridge Analytical公司丑闻。当时,业界首次披露投票分析公司Cambridge Analytica在未经用户同意的情况下搜集了8,700万Facebook用户的个人数据。与此同时,亚马逊在过去也因为把Alexa用户语音录音和文本档案用于机器学习目的而遭到了批评。

9月25日,隐私再次成为了主旋律,亚马逊的高级副总裁大卫·林普强调,隐私是亚马逊一切业务的“绝对基石”,包括软件、硬件和服务。例如,公司新推出的Echo Show 8继承了其前任Echo Show 5的功能,内置了能够遮住摄像头的挡板。同样,公司还宣布了“自动删除”功能,它将在3至18个月后自动删除录制的视频。

丹尼尔说:“隐私并非是因为东窗事发或有人在某个网站写了一篇博客之后我们所采取的补救措施。在我们一开始推出这个项目时,我们已经尽可能地去思考所有的政策、商户以及应该到位的管控。但我们在过去四年中还学到了不少东西,而且也加强了管控。”

丹尼尔说,亚马逊的这项使命远未实现。“我们将继续关注如何提升透明度,如何将更多的管控下放给客户,以及如何让客户感到他们可以信任我们提供的方案。”(财富中文网)

译者:冯丰

审校:夏林

Amazon Echo speakers have been described in different ways over the years—useful, pleasing, affordable—but premium-sounding? Cue the record-scratch.

The e-commerce giant hopes to change that tune on Nov. 7, when the newest Alexa-compatible speaker, the Echo Studio, arrives. An 8.1-inch tall, 6.9-inch long cylindrical speaker capable of piping out audio with crisp highs, solid mid-range and booming bass, the Echo Studio could be enough to impress the audio elite, not to mention rattle the walls of a one-bedroom apartment. And getting to this point, nearly five years after Amazon launched the first Echo speaker, was part of Amazon’s longer-term plan all along, says Miriam Daniel, Amazon vice president of Echo and Alexa devices.

“Premium audio shouldn’t just be for the elite few who can spend hundreds of dollars or thousands of dollars or tens of thousands of dollars, in some cases, to have that sort of an immersive experience,” says Daniel.

That may be, but it’s yet unclear how the Echo Studio will sell against rivals like Apple’s HomePod and the Sonos One. It certainly will help that Amazon has priced its high-end model at $199—a pricing philosophy the company has stuck to since it began selling the first Kindle e-reader in 2007. As Amazon has said time and again, the company is less about making a money on its hardware and more about growing the number of people who use its Amazon services. (Historically, Amazon has leaned on its other business units, like Amazon Web Services, to generate profits.)

That’s why Amazon’s recent product announcement was memorable. Sure, there were updates, such as Echo Studio, the Echo Show 8, and the Echo Dot with clock. But the wide eyes were on Amazon’s more ambitious devices: the Bose-backed, noise-reducing Echo Buds, a pair of Alexa-integrated eyeglasses dubbed Echo Frames, and the wacky Echo Loop, a ring that summons Alexa with the tap of a button. However they do on the market, these devices will speak loudly and clearly to Amazon’s grander ambitions of extending its reach into every home, every car and onto everybody.

“When you set about thinking about what form factors might make sense, we found that it’s not always one form factor for everyone,” Daniel says, talking about September 25’s wide-ranging announcement.

People want Alexa everywhere, she says, whether they’re in the car, walking outside, on public transit, walking their dog, or going to work. And when they’re in those spaces, they might want to ask Alexa to remind themselves to put the trash out or pick up their clothes from the dry cleaners.

Since Alexa launched in 2014, Amazon and its partners have sold over 100 million Alexa-enabled devices, including wireless speakers, smart locks, thermostats, even aroma diffusers and toilets. Likewise, the Seattle tech giant has been aggressive in expanding what Alexa can do, doubling the number of “skills,” or tasks, the voice assistant can perform year-over-year to 100,000 this September. Among its newest skills: speaking and understanding Hindi, India’s most popular language, and helping Alexa users donate to their U.S. presidential candidate of choice.

But as Alexa’s popularity has risen, so have privacy concerns, ignited by the Cambridge Analytical scandal in March 2018, in which it was first revealed that 87 million Facebook users had their personal data collected by voting profiling firm Cambridge Analytica without their consent. Amazon, meanwhile, has been criticized in the past for keeping voice recordings and text transcripts of Alexa user requests for machine-learning purposes.

On September 25, privacy played a key role once again, with senior vice president of Amazon devices Dave Limp emphasizing that privacy was “absolutely foundational” to everything Amazon does in software, hardware and services. Its new Echo Show 8, for instance, includes a built-in shutter to cover the video camera—a feature carried over from its predecessor, the Echo Show 5. Likewise, the also company announced “auto delete,” a feature that automatically deletes video records after three or 18 months.

“Privacy has not been an afterthought just because there’s an incident here or somebody writes a blog somewhere,” says Daniel. “We tried to imagine as best as we could all the policies, tenants, and controls that we should put in place when we first launched. But we’ve also learned over the last four years, and tightened things up.”

And Amazon is by no means done, Daniel adds. “We’ll continue to be on the lookout for how to be more transparent, how to give more control to the customers, and how to make the customers feel like they can trust the solutions we bring to them.”

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