It’s a browser-based simulator that only requires an Amazon account; once logged in, anyone (with a microphone, of course) can talk to the on-screen Alexa in much the same way you would if an actual device were in the room. The help documentation explains that EchoSim doesn’t support streaming music and far-field voice recognition.
In announcing EchoSim today, Amazon’s Glenn Cameron says it’s for developers who want to test their “skills” — Amazon’s word for the third-party apps that work with Alexa. But he also says it “gives users the ability to experience a realistic interaction with Alexa capabilities and skills.”
Whether general consumers are ever aware of EchoSim will largely depend on whether they read the coverage it’s getting today or, more likely, if Amazon decides to advertise it on the Echo product page on Amazon.com. They’re not doing so right now, but that would be a simple link to add… and it would give consumers a “try before you buy” experience that could spur sales.
(Tip via VentureBeat.)