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Amazon launches flying drone camera for the home

Amazon drones and Walmart competition
FAA OK's Amazon's drone fleet; Walmart takes aim at Prime 01:04

Amazon is expanding its line of Ring home-security products to include a flying indoor camera, as well as a car camera and alarm.

The indoor drone, called the "Ring Always Home Cam," is designed to let customers see inside their homes when they're not in—perhaps to check if the stove is on, or if someone has broken in. The Seattle technology company giant unveiled its new products at a pre-recorded event on Thursday.

The $249 camere can fly only along pre-set flight paths, according to Amazon. The drone can also be set to detect motion and to automatically fly toward it.

Amazon's flying camera can detect motion and flies along pre-set flight paths, according to Amazon. Courtesy Amazon

A demonstration video of the flying camera in action depicts a would-be thief breaking into a house, only to be scared off when the absent homeowner sends the drone in the thief's direction. The device still needs authorization from the Federal Communications Commission, the demo video noted.

Leila Rouhi, Ring's president, emphasized the privacy features of the Ring Always Home Cam in Thursday's event. The dock in which the drone rests blocks the camera so that it can only record while it's in flight. Rouhi also noted that the device is loud enough to be heard when in flight.

Amazon's Ring Always Home Cam (upper left) flies through a house in a simulation from Amazon. Screenshot

Privacy has been a concern for Amazon after reports that its voice-enabled speakers have recorded customers without their knowledge and made recordings available to the company's workers. Ring has shared customer data with other tech companies, a practice that it said it would change. Ring and Nest products have also been shown to be susceptible to hackers.

Rouhi noted on Thursday that the Ring system would include end-to-end video encryption as an option.

Why "you should feel weird" about Amazon listening to what you say to Alexa 04:08

Car security

Amazon is also rolling out several car alarms under the Ring line. In addition to a Ring car alarm, Amazon is offering a car camera that functions as an alarm. The camera is pre-set to record traffic stops with a voice command and can be set to alert others when someone is pulled over.

The vehicle alarm costs about $60, while the car camera costs about $200. The auto products will be available starting early next year, Rouhi said.

A demonstration of Amazon's Ring Car Cam. The product will be available for purchase in early 2021, the company said. Amazon

Fighting boredom during quarantine

 Nodding to a world where many of its consumers are isolated at home, Amazon is also doubling down on its entertainment offerings and unveiled Luna, a game controller and subscription service. The controller is designed to connect with games people already own and make them available on multiple devices. 

Luna connects to Amazon's cloud servers, AWS, which the company said would improve the games' response time and eliminate the need to "pair" the device with specific screens. Luna is also fully integrated with Twitch, the popular video-game streaming platform.

The subscription service will launch with 50 games and will have tiered pricing levels, Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter said in a research note.

Amazon's Echo speaker series is also getting an update. The budget-priced Echo Dot will come in a spherical, cloth-covered version. It will also have two kids' options, which run $60 and look like a panda or a tiger. Children's features include access to educational games, a filter to block explicit lyrics in songs and a reading mode. That mode allows Alexa to "read" with kids by reciting books and offering feedaback or praise.

Amazon's kid-friendly speakers come in two varieties. Amazon

The Echo Show, Amazon's speaker with a screen, will get a mobile screen that can rotate to face the customer. It can "follow you around the room as a person would in a conversation," said Dave Limp, senior vice president of devices at Amazon. That means customers are free to move around during video calls, while watching TV or following a recipe. 

The Echo Show can also be used as a surveillance system, rotating periodically to record its surroundings.

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