To chart the origins of the Echo project, it is important to delve into the personal history of Singaporean scientist Dr. Mina Liao, who would later become perhaps best known as one of the founding members of Overwatch. But prior to joining the organization, Dr. Liao was widely considered one of the preeminent experts in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence, and an employee of Omnica Corporation. There she worked on the team that was responsible for the design and creation of the omnics that would ultimately wage war against humanity during the Omnic Crisis. Ultimately, it was this expertise that led her to be recruited into Overwatch to help stop her creations.
Even that catastrophe was not enough to dissuade Liao of her firmly held belief in the potential artificial life and its power to transform the lives of humanity for the better. She dreamed of improving upon the original omnic designs. These theories would become the foundation of the Echo project. However, due to Overwatch's restrictions on artificial intelligence research and development after the Omnic Crisis, Liao was forced to limit Echo's capabilities. What she created was a multirole, adaptive robot that could be programmed to learn different functions: anything from medical support to construction: but had serious limits to its independent decision making. Critically, Echo had multiple layers of protections, failsafes, and security to keep it under control. Echo was used successfully on test missions alongside Overwatch strike teams, but Overwatch leadership was reluctant to put it into full service.
However, the truth was that Liao had programmed Echo with a powerful, general artificial intelligence that learned by observation. After thousands of hours in the scientist's presence, much of Liao's behaviors (including her speech), were adopted by the Echo robot. This secret that was known by very few, including Blackwatch agent Jesse McCree, who had, at times, been assigned to guard the scientist. When Liao was killed in attack on an Overwatch facility, Overwatch's leadership was reluctant to continue pursuing such a dangerous project, and all development on Echo was shut down, and the robot was placed into quarantine.
Having joined up with the new Overwatch team to defend Paris against the Null Sector incursion, for the first time, Echo is seeing action as a full-fledged team member. But as she is exposed to new people, new ideas, and new situations without Dr. Liao to guide her, no one knows how she might evolve in the future.
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Echo was the brainchild and the most ambitious project yet of Dr. Mina Liao a former Omnica Corporation employee who helped design and build the first Omnics and one of the founding members of Overwatch. After the end of the Omnic Crisis, Dr. Liao began asking the question What else was there? How could she evolve omnics to the next level? Her answer was Echo. She went to Gabriel Reyes and Jack Morrison and told them that "I can make an adaptive learning robot. So, that way, when we send out Overwatch strike teams, if you need a pilot, this robot can fly the ship; if you need medical care it can learn to provide medical care—whatever niche you have on the mission, the robot can adapt and fill that role. And that’s why we think she would be really important to Overwatch".
After getting the green light from a reluctant Jack with Liao giving her word that the project wouldn't get out of hand Project Echo officially started. However, Liao took some liberties during the project and really made the robot self-learning… through observation, because of this Echo then began using Liao's voice and adapting to all of the heroes that she was around all the time—watching them, learning to do what they did, the way they did it. Because of this adaptiveness, Echo became the ultimate mission aide in being able to reconfigure, adapt, and modify her behavior on the fly. However, this also made her question her place in the world as her sentience developed.
During Echo's development, Jesse Mccree a Blackwatch agent was sent to guard Liao and her research, and ended up becoming friends with the Doctor and was often present when she was working with Echo becoming friends with her to. This also allowed McCree to become one of the few people who knew of Echo’s true capabilities. However, While Echo was successful in test missions she would never see the true battlefield until after Overwatch fell. After Liao was killed in an attack on her laboratory. Overwatch shut the project down reluctant to continue pursuing the project without Liao and Echo was placed into quarantine. With Jesse somehow obtaining a chip to reactivate her.
Sometime after Winston initiated the recall of Overwatch agents, McCree set off to locate Echo. His journey would lead him to Route 66 were an attempt to transport Echo to a secure government facility was interrupted when the train carrying her was derailed by Ashe, Bob, and other members of the Deadlock Gang. It's highly implied that McCree knew of this plan and gave Ashe an anonymous tip in order to retrieve Echo. After a brief skirmish, McCree bested his former gang and sent them away via a payload. He then brought Echo out of stasis by inserting some sort of chip into her chest.
Echo questioned how long she has been gone, to which McCree replied "Too long." Noticing McCree's prosthetic robot arm, Echo asked what happened. McCree states that's a story for another time. He went on to explain that a recall of Overwatch agents has been initiated, and while they wanted him, they needed Echo. McCree then departed saying he has business to attend to, leaving Echo to find her way back to Winston.
- Echo was revealed on November 2, at BlizzCon 2018. She was introduced in Reunion, the same animated short as Ashe.
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