Amazon won't be happy until Alexa is everywhere.
It's already supported by tonnes of different speakers, devices, and gadgets. And, just recently, Amazon announced that it’s adding microwave and oven control features to its assistant, allowing Alexa to handle requests like, “Microwave for 30 seconds on high.” Support for other cooking appliances will be added later, too. But, now, Amazon has another space it plans to invade: headphones and wearables.
That's right. Amazon wants you to use Alexa while on the go.
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What is Amazon Alexa on the go?
Amazon wants Alexa to be supported by the next generation of headphones and wearables, like smartwatches. To make that possible, the company has announced the Alexa mobile accessory kit. It's a development kit that'll make it easier for hardware companies to add Alexa to their mobile accessory products. Amazon said they'll be able to do so "with minimum investment in hardware or integration efforts".
Wait, Alexa is already in headphones and watches
You're right. For instance, in 2016, Chinese company iMCO launched a crowdfunding campaign for CoWatch, a stainless steel, round-faced smartwatch that had integration with Alexa. Also, in late 2017, we were told the Bragi Dash wireless earbuds would add the ability to talk to Amazon's assistant. But these products are few and far between. There's obviously some kind of barrier holding things up.
How will all this work?
With the Alexa mobile accessory kit, Amazon is handling the integration bit. Manufacturers and development teams no longer need to perform the bulk of the coding for their Alexa integration. So, there should be no more issues, and we, as the consumers, will likely see an onslaught of new Alexa headphones and wearables as a result. Amazon is specifically making this toolkit for lightweight devices, too.
In other words, devices that don’t have a lot of processing power, including gadgets that are always connected to a phone. Amazon's toolkit works by sending voice requests to the Alexa app on iOS or Android. The app then processes the request, which should seem seamless to you. But from a manufacturers' standpoint, all they need to do is record and transfer audio, which their devices can already do.
When will the toolkit be available?
Amazon said it won't come out until “later this year". Developers can sign up here to be notified when it's available.
Which headphones and wearables support Alexa?
Amazon said it already has a bunch of partners working with the toolkit, including Bose, Beyerdynamic, Jabra, and iHome. You can expect to see some of these Alexa-integrated devices announced at CES 2018, though they likely won't go on sale until later this year.
Why is Amazon doing this now?
Amazon is just trying to stay ahead of the competition. Apple’s AirPods work with Siri, and Google's Pixel Buds have built-in Google Assistant. Google has also started letting companies build its Assistant directly into headphones (example: Bose QC 35 II). Plus, Amazon just wants to push Alexa everywhere, so this move to headphones and wearables, like smartwatches, just makes sense.