In Brief
Amazon's virtual assistant Alexa has mostly been available on the Echo, the company's smart home speaker. That's about to change with a new developer toolkit, which Amazon will make available by this summer.

A Familiar Voice

When it comes to smart speakers, the Amazon Echo is still in the lead. Much of this success is due to the Echo’s built-in voice-controlled intelligent virtual assistant, Alexa. Amazon has revealed that they’re getting ready to bring Alexa outside of the Echo.

Ahead of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Amazon announced a new tool kit called the Alexa Mobile Accessory Kit that will allow developers “to bring Alexa to portable, on-the-go devices such as hearables, headphones, smart watches, fitness devices, and more.” Alexa has made quite a name for itself in the health industry through the Echo, and the company has also been working on smart glasses powered by Alexa.

“With the Alexa Mobile Accessory Kit, [original equipment manufacturer] development teams no longer need to perform the bulk of the coding for their Alexa integration,” Amazon’s Gagan Luthra explained in the announcement. “Bluetooth audio-capable devices built with this new kit can connect directly to the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) via the Amazon Alexa App (for Android and iOS) on the customer’s mobile device.”

A Mobile Assistant

The idea seems simple enough. Amazon wants to let hardware developers to do what they do best without worrying about voice computing, something most aren’t focused on. By the company allowing Alexa to be used outside its own products, companies like Bose would be able to develop Bluetooth headphones that could compete with Apple’s AirPods and Google’s Pixel Buds — both of which work with their respective voice assistants.

“Bose is excited to add a remarkable new Alexa experience for our customers,” Bose product management director Brian Maguire said in a statement. “Accessing Alexa’s music, information, and vast number of skills on our headphones will become easier than ever, and we’re looking forward to bringing our collaboration to life.”

Amazon's Alexa is coming to your headphones soon.
Image Credit: Pexels

Aside from Bose, Amazon is already working with a number of device makers, including Jabra, iHome, Beyerdynamic, Bowers and Wilkins, and AVS Solution Providers Linkplay, SUGR, and Libre Wireless. Each of these have started developing Alexa Mobile Accessories for full hands-free integration with Amazon’s virtual assistant. Other interested developers can sign up here before the kit is made broadly available by summer 2018.