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Amazon holds its first product launch at HQ2 in Pentagon City

(Updated at 2:30 p.m.) Channeling the energy of an iPhone launch, Amazon unveiled its new line of AI-powered gadgets in Arlington on Wednesday.

While a September product launch is typical for the tech giant, this event was the first major unveiling Amazon has hosted at its new HQ2 in Pentagon City — and the top brass went all out for the occasion.

Inside the 2.1-million-square-foot complex, which wrapped up its first phase of construction in June, Amazon employees ushered attendees to their seats in the airy auditorium. Caterers served hors d’oeuvres, kombucha and cold-pressed juice. Pop music from the likes of Dua Lipa and Ellie Goulding played in the background.

Then, an ethereal voice put an end to the bustling activity, leading the crowd in a countdown and asking everyone to “silence their cellphones.”

Amazon Senior Vice President of Devices and Services David Limp took the stage first, making arguably the most consequential announcement of the day. He explained how generative AI — the buzzy tech that people use to create anything from raps to digital illustrations — will shape the future of Amazon’s products.

Limp demonstrated Alexa’s new enhanced AI-powered capabilities talking to the the company’s forthcoming $150 Echo Show 8, highlighting the smart home device’s capacity to comprehend complex requests and engage in more human-like interactions.

“We’ve studied what it takes to make a great conversation over the past nine years. It’s not just words, it’s body language. It’s understanding who you’re addressing. It’s eye contact, it’s gestures,” Limp said.

To create “much more conversational experiences” with Alexa, Limp said Amazon combined the sensors in an Echo — including its camera and ability to detect someone’s presence — with its newest Large Language Models. These “talk to” humans by processing large amounts of text on the Internet and predicting the right response.

After Limp, a cadre of Amazon executives introduced new products such as the $50 Echo Pop Kids smart speaker, the $180 Echo Hub Home, a control panel for managing smart devices, and a more aesthetic upgrade to its smart glasses, the $270 Echo Frames.

Each announcement sparked a flurry of keyboard activity from tech journalists in attendance — with resulting headlines in Engadget, The Verge and elsewhere — as well as applause from employees and stakeholders.

Before inviting the audience to try out demo devices, Limp said he believes this new technology can “redefine” the way people “interact” with their homes.

“Customers have now connected over 400 million devices to their Alexa Smart Home and they’re using Alexa to control those devices hundreds of millions of times each week,” he said.

Most devices will start shipping in October. Customers can pre-order through Amazon’s website.

The full list of products announced is below.

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