Amazon wants to see Alexa inside the next generation of smart watches and headphones. To make that happen, the company announced plans this morning (January 5) for a “mobile accessory” development kit, which is supposed to make it easy for hardware companies to build Alexa into their wearable products. Amazon says it will allow them to “add Alexa to their devices with minimum investment in hardware or integration efforts.”
This won’t mark the first time Alexa has made it to headphones or watches — companies have tried this in the past — but it’s been rare. The promise here is that products using the toolkit should theoretically work better, too, since Amazon is handling the bulk of the integration.
Getting into headphones before other assistants take over
Amazon is specifically making this toolkit for lightweight gadgets that don’t have a lot of processing power. In fact, it’s designed for gadgets that are always connected to a phone: this toolkit works by sending voice requests back to the Alexa app on iOS or Android, which then processes the request. From a user’s standpoint, that should be mostly invisible if it works correctly and the connection holds up. But from a device standpoint, it means a lot less work; manufacturers basically just need to record and transfer some audio, which their gadgets can do already.
The toolset isn’t supposed to come out until “later this year,” but Amazon says it already has a bunch of partners working with it. That includes Bose, Beyerdynamic, Jabra, and iHome, so you can probably expect to see Alexa-integrated headphones within the year.
It’s important that Amazon start to get these products out, too. Apple’s AirPods offer a direct connection to Siri, and Google has been starting to let companies build its Assistant directly into headphones as well. (Bose already launched a pair that supports it.) Amazon has been trying to get Alexa everywhere, and to be in those places early, so it makes sense that it’s jumping over to headphones and wearables.