Getting Up to Speed on the Alexa Gadgets Toolkit

Getting Up to Speed on the Alexa Gadgets Toolkit

If Amazon’s made anything clear, it’s that they want their Alexa assistant in almost every device in the home. From microwaves to even wall clocks, Alexa’s everywhere—and she’s about to spread to even more devices soon in the form of “Alexa Gadgets.” Manufacturers and developers can design their own Alexa Gadgets with the Alexa Gadgets toolkit.

But first, what are Alexa Gadgets, and what is the Alexa Gadgets toolkit? Alexa Gadgets are essentially small devices and accessories that pair with an Amazon Echo device. They aren’t full-fledged Alexa devices; rather you pair an Alexa Gadget with an Echo via Bluetooth to receive visual or aural feedback from the device. For example, a gadget might light up or play a sound when the Echo has an alert. This extends Alexa’s capabilities to other accessories throughout the home—perhaps a lamp or photo frame—with the intent to add delight to the user.

The Alexa Gadgets API includes several interfaces for functionality, and the list will be growing over time. So far, the Alexa Gadgets toolkit includes:

  • Wake word detection
  • Reminders and notifications
  • Speech (allowing lip syncing to Alexa’s speech)
  • Timers
  • Music (allowing for visual performance set to music playback)
  • Kid-compatible skills

The last point seems to be a bush push from Amazon for content especially for kids.  In addition to these interfaces, the Alexa Gadgets toolkit enables over-the-air product updates for simple, frictionless updating.

Who’s Using the Alexa Gadgets API Right Now

Amazon’s selected a handful of manufacturers to create the first flagship Alexa Gadgets, giving us an indication for how to use the Alexa Gadgets API. One thing that several of the businesses—Hasbro, WowWee, TOMY International, eKids—have in common is that they are child-friendly. This makes sense, as one can imagine the appeal of toys, dolls and plushies brought to life by Alexa compatibility. And unlike the other interfaces, the push for kid-centric gadgets includes the development of child-friendly skills that will be compatible to Alexa Gadgets.

For example, WowWee is producing smart toothbrushes to promote healthy brushing through games, lights and sound effects. BabySmart set their sights on parents’ needs with their Waddles the Smart Duck rubber duckie. Once you pair the Alexa Gadget to Echo, it allows for hands-free nursery control and music streaming.

What to Look Forward to with Alexa Gadgets Toolkit

Alexa Gadgets asks developers to consider how skills might work uniquely with different types of hardware. A large part in designing a conversational interface is to consider the context to use it in; when designing Alexa Gadgets, manufacturers can better envision how Alexa can take on a more physical presence in the home. One of Amazon’s examples of a clever Alexa Gadget is a pill box that light up to remind people to take their medication.

More interfaces will be added over time, allowing for even more possibilities. While there’s no word yet for how custom skills might interact with a paired Alexa Gadget, we’re likely to see more complex functionalities as time goes on. In fact, businesses who have built Alexa skills might consider how they could work with applicable gadgets they might design in the future. Digging into voice chatbot analytics can help glean where, when and how users are calling up a skill to aid in that process.

Those hoping to build their own gadgets can start using the Alexa Gadgets dev kit. The Alexa Gadgets dev kit features include Bluetooth connectivity, button input, LED output as well as motor control, allowing manufacturers to quickly build and test gadgets right now.