Upon visiting Berlin’s IFA2107 — Germany’s answer to CES — recently, there was one word I kept hearing: Alexa. In the consumer hardware space, it’s a great time to be Amazon, if the sheer number of hardware companies jumping on the Alexa bandwagon are anything to go by.
Only today it was revealed that Amazon is working on a pair of smart glasses integrating Alexa, intended to look similar to regular glasses with bone conduction technology to allow the user to engage with Alexa without having to wear headphones. Amazon is also working on an Echo connected camera system that cannot only keep a look out for intruders but also Amazon-delivered packages.
During the IFA conference, a number of companies made their own Alexa announcements. Let’s take a look:
Bragi makes The Dash series Amazon Alexa-compatible
Smart headphone company Bragi is responsible for one of the largest Kickstarter funding rounds in European history (over $3.39 million) with The Dash series (The Dash, The Dash Pro), headphones that not only enable the user to listen to music without leads but also measure movements like pace, steps, cadence and distance along with heart rate, oxygen saturation and energy spent, without an attached smartphone.
At IFA2017 they company announced that their headphones are now Alexa-compatible. This marks a first for Alexa in the “truly wireless” headphone space. It’s also one of the first truly mobile hardware integrations for Amazon’s cloud-based voice service.
“Now customers with The Dash headphones can easily take Alexa with them on the go,” said Jon Kirk, Director Amazon Alexa.
“Bragi’s intelligent headphones with Alexa will make it easy for customers to control their smart home, ask for news, and access more than 20,000 skills in the Alexa skills store.”
Bragi products are currently compatible with voice assistants like Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant, but Amazon Alexa brings a new world of possibilities through smart home, shopping, and home entertainment use cases. Users of Amazon Alexa on The Dash will also be able to access several streaming audio options including their Amazon Music Library, Amazon Prime Music, Audible and TuneIn Radio.
Amazon Alexa increases robot helper tasks
UBTECH Robotics‘ Alpha 2 and younger sibling Lynx, are two humanoid robots are intent on taking over your household tasks. They can take pictures and videos, make calls, check voicemails, read and send texts and emails, and control WiFi-enabled office equipment. They can also post to your social media using voice commands and dance enthusiastically due to over 20 joints on each robot. Alpha 2 features an open API and SDK for Android and the comes welcomes input from developer enthusiasts.
Significantly, Lynx is the first video-enabled humanoid robot with Amazon Alexa functionality. This means that the robot can not only shop directly from Amazon but also ’s talk to home devices such as security cameras, door locks, security systems, and thermostats.
Fellow robotics company Qiban debuted Sanbot Nano, the company’s first home robot. It’s something like a security camera crossed with Echo Dot — it’s Alexa capabilities succeeded that of Lynx robot — that patrols your house and talks to you, thanks to 50 sensors that help it avoid obstacles, hear voices, and facial recognition tech that helps it recognize when someone enters the room.
The downside is its price, you can expect to part with $2,800, more than double the price of Alpha 2 and Lynx.
Alexa and Cortana connect
Along with lending it’s functionality to more and more hardware, Amazon and Microsoft announced on Sunday that Alexa will be able to talk to Cortana, and Cortana will be able to talk to Alexa.
Alexa customers will be able to access Cortana’s unique features like booking a meeting or accessing work calendars, reminding you to pick up flowers on your way home, or reading your work email – all using just your voice. Similarly, Cortana customers can ask Alexa to control their smart home devices, shop on Amazon.com, interact with many of the more than 20,000 skills built by third-party developers, and much more.
According to Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO, Amazon:
“The world is big and so multifaceted. There are going to be multiple successful intelligent agents, each with access to different sets of data and with different specialized skill areas. Together, their strengths will complement each other and provide customers with a richer and even more helpful experience. It’s great for Echo owners to get easy access to Cortana.”
The combining of the home automation and shopping functionalities of Alexa and business communication skills of Cortana will provide some useful collaborative clout against Google and Siri assistants, as well as showing the benefits of collaboration to the innovation of the voice assistant ecosystem. There is, however, no word yet from the latter companies as to whether they want to join the gang. As Amazon endeavors to seep into every part of your life, you can bet the rest are taking notice.