Now we know where Alexa is heading next. Amazon revealed that its digital assistant, which was launched more than three years ago and has since expanded to various form factors, will be on accessories in the near future. The company announced the Alexa Mobile Accessory Kit for developers to work Alexa into things like headphones, smartwatches, and activity trackers.
The plan is for Alexa to be on anything and everything. Amazon’s digital assistant started out on two in-house smart speakers, the Echo and Echo Dot, before moving on to third-party devices. Alexa can be found on speakers, thermostats, phones, tablets, even home appliances. Amazon would like to continue bringing Alexa to new products not only in those categories but new ones as well.
Its main competitor, Google Assistant, holds a slight advantage as of today as Google’s artificial intelligence-backed platform is also available on headphones and smartwatches.
With the Alexa Mobile Accessory Kit, developers can “add Alexa to their devices with minimum investment in hardware or integration efforts.” There isn’t a heavy amount of coding to be inserted. Developers just have to connect their devices to the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) through the Alexa app on an iOS or Android device. From there, Alexa is ready to go. It’ll be the same experience across all devices — get weather updates, manage a calendar, control connected devices in the home, and stream media.
You do have to wonder about Amazon’s own plans after this announcement. It doesn’t seem like it’s a matter of if but when the company will introduce a self-made smartwatch or possibly headphones. The idea that Amazon would create a smartwatch is particularly interesting because, if an outside party set out to do that, it’d have to create an operating system (likely just a forked version of Android). The team in Seattle already knows how to modify Android to its liking, and the Lab126 division is experienced in rolling out ambitious projects-turned-products.
Amazon is already receiving support for Alexa’s latest expansion. Bose, Jabra, iHome, Beyerdynamic, and Linkplay have committed to releasing compatible on-the-go products in 2018. But the more interesting takeaway is what this means for Amazon itself. By the end of the year, we could be looking at more Amazon-branded hardware unlike anything we’ve seen before.