Alexa is marching across the world of tech, appearing in all sorts of devices looking to bring connectivity from all angles.
The latest announcement, appearing on the day that Amazon announced that Alexa Voice Service's availability in the UK and Germany, comes from Logitech.
ZeroTouch is an in-car system designed to unlock many of the skills of your smartphone, wrapped into Logitech's own interface paired with a car dock. It will offer music, navigation and messaging, but as the name suggests, it does so without using touch.
Looking to free drivers from the danger of fiddling with their phone while driving, you waken the phone with a wave or high five gesture in front of your mounted phone. You then speak your commands and the phone responds.
Generally, it's a reasonable system. It's simple in many regards in that it uses an app that's free, but you need to be connected to one of the company's docks to get it working. That's a Bluetooth connection, meaning ZeroTouch only works when docked in the car.
We've used it, but the need to use a hand gesture to activate the phone sets it at a disadvantage compared to something like Android Auto's app, which comes to life with a hotword - Ok Google.
(There's juncture for an admission here: we still use the ZeroTouch mount, but have been using it with the Android Auto app, because it's a better overall experience.)
Alexa's simplicity comes from the fact that your Amazon Echo is always listening. You are shuffling around the kitchen with your hands full and you can tell Alexa to turn off the heating, set a timer for 10 minutes, play some experimental jazz and add flax seeds to your shopping list.
Transport this friendly AI to your car and you've got much of that Alexa experience in the car. You can ask your weight from Fitbit, you can turn your home lights off and you can ask all manner of questions, but you still have to use the wake gesture.
The sort of takes the shine off one of the things that Alexa is good at: responding to a voice command.
So here’s ZeroTouch working with Alexa…. pic.twitter.com/YWL17aGjUD— Chris Hall (@christhall) February 7, 2017
Alexa also doesn't offer all the services you'll get at home, for example, ask it to play music and you'll be told it's not supported on this device. Alexa doesn't offer all your driving services - ask it to navigate you and it'll say it doesn't know how to do that.
So you can be driving home and tell your Neato Botvac to clean the house, you can turn the Philips Hue lights on and set the heating to a comfortable temperature. (Anecdotally, we found that Alexa on ZeroTouch flipped to setting the temperature in Fahrenheit, like the 1950s.) You can check your weight with Fitbit and add something to your shopping list, windscreen washer perhaps, but you have to mix and match these services as you're driving and you have do so with that wake gesture.
Is this the Alexa experience we were looking for? Not really. It's a useful range of skills that extends out of the Logitech ZeroTouch. Between them they do just about everything, but for motoring, we still find the (free) offering of Android Auto to be better suited, especially without the need for a wake gesture.
Or, if you're quick, it's currently on a deal for £24.99 at Carphone Warehouse.