- Amazon introduced software tools to help electronics makers create gadgets that respond to voice commands, according to a blog post. The Alexa Gadgets Toolkit lets developers more easily pair their devices with Amazon Echo speakers that host the Alexa digital assistant.
- Hasbro, Baby Plus, TOMY International, Novalia and eKids are among the companies that are building Alexa-powered gadgets such as toothbrushes, toys and games with the toolkit. Amazon plans to sell the products this year, starting with Gemmy Industries' Big Mouth Billy Bass, an animatronic mounted fish that moves and sings to music.
- Amazon this year also plans to release eight new voice-controlled devices including a microwave oven, amplifier, receiver, subwoofer and an in-car gadget, per an unconfirmed report from CNBC. The e-commerce giant is expected to introduce the gadgets at an event later this month.
The Alexa Gadgets Toolkit and reported plans to start selling additional voice-controlled devices indicate that Amazon is working aggressively to make Alexa compatible with a wider range of technologies. That integration is critical to competing with Google, Apple and Samsung, which also have voice-powered assistants to help users manage their households even when they're away from home.
The Alexa-powered gadgets can have features like lights, sound chips and motors that would interact with Alexa's services of notifications, timers, reminders, text-to-speech or wake word detection, according to TechCrunch. That means gadget developers could make products such as a pill box that flashes or chimes to remind someone to take medication, a remote-controlled food dispenser for pets or an outdoor appliance that rings at the end of a timer.
Amazon faces a growing threat from other tech giants, particularly Google. The e-commerce giant's global share of smart speaker shipments fell to 41% in Q2 2018 from 76% a year earlier, while Google boosted its share to 28% from 16% during the same periods, Strategy Analytics found. If Amazon wants to hold onto that lead, the company needs to make Alexa as powerful as possible by urging more gadget makers to create products that work with the voice assistant, and by giving them reassurances that Alexa will have ongoing technical support and innovation.
Developing other Alexa-controlled devices could help Amazon fight off Google, but the company has had mixed success in developing hardware. While its Fire smartphone was dubbed a failure, the e-commerce giant pioneered the smart speaker market with its line of Alexa-powered Echo devices.