After reaching a large number of smartphones and some smart speakers, Amazon is now set to bring its Alexa voice assistant to various portable, on-the-go devices. The company has launched the Alexa Mobile Accessory Kit to make its new development possible and ultimately broaden the reach of Alexa – taking on Google Assistant, Apple Siri, and Microsoft Cortana. The new kit enables manufacturers to integrate Amazon Alexa on hardware such as hearables, headphones, smartwatches, and fitness devices among others. Ahead of other developments, New York-based Vuzix at the CES 2018 in Las Vegas showcased the first Alexa-enabled augmented reality (AR) glasses. The AR glasses will reportedly arrive in the second quarter with a cost around $1,000 (approximately Rs. 63,400).
Instead of adding a bulk of code to enable Alexa integration, Amazon claims that the Alexa Mobile Accessory Kit enables OEMs to connect their Bluetooth audio-capable devices directly to the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) via the Amazon Alexa app on end users’ mobile devices. “Customers who connect their devices with the Amazon Alexa app can take advantage of all the great features available through AVS, including streaming media, smart home capabilities, thousands of Alexa skills, calendar management, weather updates, and more,” said Gagan Luthra, Head of Developer Marketing, Amazon, in a blog post. The latest development is a lightweight solution of the AVS Device SDK that the company launched last year to let OEMs start integrating Alexa into their Bluetooth-supported connected devices.
Audio device manufacturers such as Bose, Jabra, iHome, and Bowers & Wilkins, apart from AVS solution providers iLinkplay, SUGR, and Libre Wireless, have partnered with Amazon to enable the new experience on their next-generation Bluetooth mobile accessories later this year. However, Vuzix has emerged as the first smartglass maker to showcase the development in real.
The AR glasses by Vuzix will enable the core Alexa’s capabilities, such as showing sports scores, right on the glasses, as reported by Bloomberg. Similar to what Google Glass offered in the past, the Vuzix glasses superimpose digital information on top of the glasses to help users connect with Alexa assistant alongside looking at the real world.
Vuzix CEO Paul Travers mentioned in a Bloomberg interview that while the initial cost of bringing the AR glasses is is at $1,000, the “ultimate goal” of the company is to make them available for an under $500 price. This is expected to happen sometime in 2019.
Companies including Apple and Facebook-owned Oculus are rumoured to also be working on their native AR glasses. But it is interesting to see how Alexa would get into this same nascent space.
Launched with Amazon Echo speaker family back in 2014, Alexa is currently taking on Google Assistant with its recent debut in the market of smartphones. Models such as the HTC U11, Huawei Mate 9, and Moto X4 lately entered the smartphone market with Alexa integration alongside Google Assistant. Third-party smart speakers, aside from the Amazon Echo lineup, such as Harman Kardon Allure and Logitech UE Blast and UE Megablast also included Alexa integration. However, its expansion might give a tough competition to Siri that is already powering the Apple Watch in addition to its integration into iPhone and iPad. It will soon make its way to get the anticipated HomePod voice-controlled speaker from Apple.
In August, Microsoft tied-up with Amazon to let Cortana and Alexa work together – rivaling Google Assistant and Siri. There were plans to enable Alexa on Microsoft Windows 10 and bring Cortana to Amazon Echo devices. But both the companies are yet to showcase their developments.