As the lines between reality and science fiction become blurred, it seems that our future will be defined by the technology we create. For some, the 'future' entails technology like lasers and jetpacks, while for others, the future is full of flying cars and anti-gravity. However, throughout the years, there has been one constant in man's vision of the future: artificial intelligence. A.I. - the idea that a computer can learn - is widely considered to be one of the next great technological leaps forward.

When it was first announced, it looked like Apple's Siri program was going to be the first step towards artificial intelligence for everyone. Clearly, that didn't end up happening, but Siri was still an important step forward; not from a technological standpoint, but a step forward in getting the average person used to the idea of such technology.

It seems that Amazon will be taking the next big step forward. If Siri was a way for people to get used to the idea of A.I. in their pocket, then the 'Echo' device will serve as A.I. for the home.

Remember JARVIS, Tony Stark's artificial butler from the Iron Man films? Echo will fill a similar role...just don't expect it to build any high-tech flying armor for you. Instead, Echo will act as an all-in-one, voice-activated, wireless assistant for the home.

Most of Echo's functionality stems from its connection to the cloud. Many features, such as creating and maintaining schedules, answering questions and gathering data all stem from said connection. On top of all that, Amazon promises that Echo will 'learn' as the device remains connected to the Internet. While that last part may sound terrifying, it's highly unlikely that Echo will become sentient and enact the downfall of the human race (though Amazon has not released a comment on any end-of-the-world possibilities).

In addition to its cloud connection, the Echo can also be used with a special companion app. If, for whatever reason, you can't control the Echo with your voice, just use the app - it's that simple.

From a physical standpoint, Echo is basically a small cylinder covered in speakers. There are seven of these speakers in total, which not only allows for high-quality sound (the device can be used with Spotify for playing music), it also allows for easy voice recognition regardless of proximity. Basically, no one's going to be yelling at the Echo like it's an Xbox Kinect. Aside from a few small buttons and a volume dial, the Echo is controlled completely through voice: it's incredibly sleek, and the only thing not contained in the cylinder itself is the power cable.

Currently, the Echo isn't available for purchase - yet. Amazon is currently accepting applications to buy the Echo, after which it can be purchased for $199 USD ($99 for Prime members). It's not a bad price point, considering everything that Amazon promises Echo can do.

There's no word just yet on when Echo will be available to the public, but in the meantime, anyone can sign up for an invite through Amazon's official site.

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