Everyone should be terrified of Amazon’s Alexa microwave
Jeff Bezos has signalled his intent for Amazon to take over your entire home. And Jeff Bezos usually gets what he wants!!
Amazon’s hardware division has been busy. This week it has announced a slew of new Alexa-powered devices, including an in-car dashboard assistant and a microwave. Yes, a microwave.
But before you think that Amazon has completely lost its AI mind, it’s clear that the trillion-dollar company is betting huge on alexa and voice controlled devices . Dave Limp, senior vice president of devices at Amazon, when rattling through the avalanche of announcements said: “Just think, one day there will be thousands of these things in the home.” When he said “one day”, he clearly meant “very soon”.
As well as the microwave and car gizmo, Amazon is moving further into audio products after its existing speakers and collaborations with the likes of Sonos. An amplifier, a receiver and subwoofer have been announced, all of which will be have Alexa built in. Perhaps most interesting, though, is something you will never physically see – it’s called Connect Kit. It’s what’s led to that, on the face of it, odd Alexa microwave. Connect Kit is a small bit of circuitry with Bluetooth LE and Wi-Fi and a real-time OS that makes it staggeringly easy for device manufacturers to add Alexa to whatever they are making. Plug it in to what you are making and your device now has Alexa capability if the end user has other Alexa devices in the home.
What’s more, Amazon – not the device manufacturer – is responsible for updating the software on the Connect Kit and keeping it secure. The third-party company doesn’t have to worry about a thing.
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Alexa is one of the leading digital assistants on the market, fighting it out with Google Assistant for the top spot, with Siri trailing in third. The growth of the smart speaker market from the launch of the first Echo in November 2014 has been swift, and is expected to be worth up to $30 billion by 2024, according to Global Market Insights. Amazon currently has a smart speaker market share of 67 per cent in Europe.
What’s interesting about these new products is that they signal moves by the company into markets where it already has existing product collaborations. And, as a result, it’s something of an aggressive move. Sonos’s multi-room system can be operated via Amazon’s voice assistant, and it has speakers that have Alexa built in, such as the One and Beam. GE produces a smart microwave that too can be operated via Alexa commands.
Some might question the business strategy of making competitor products to companies Amazon is already working with, as well as bonkers choices such as making a voice-controlled microwave. However, the company has demonstrated before its willingness to experiment and allow the public to decide what it should concentrate on. The Echo speakers and Echo Dot have been unqualified successes, but the Echo Buttons not so much.
But this doesn’t really matter. Amazon’s main goal is owning a sizeable stake in the connected home. Not only does it now have its digital-assistant speakers in, according to Amazon, tens of millions of homes across the world, helping us order more groceries through its own supply chains, earlier this year the company bought smart doorbell maker Ring, which among others things will help you let delivery staff drop off your Amazon purchases with greater ease.
That microwave is the latest attempt from Amazon at establishing a foothold in the home. And this is another experiment. After all, why would you need to talk to a device that you have to get up and physically interact with anyway? The Alexa team has game-planned it all out and know how this will help them take over our burgeoning smart homes, but it is also reminiscent of the rather crazy early days of consumer IOT.
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Back in 2014, with its WW9000, Samsung was so taken with the idea that it could add Wi-Fi, and therefore remote operation, to its then latest washing machine that it seemingly never stopped to consider just because it could make an internet-connected washer whether it actually should, or if it would be of any practical use at all. It wasn’t. Again, it was a device you had to physically interactive with – put in and take out clothes. The Alexa microwave poses the same problems, only this time with reheating pasta.
The sheer number of Alexa developments announced this week felt almost like Amazon had loaded a bunch of Alexas into a gun and fired it at a wall – but don’t be fooled. There is method here. And now Amazon is making its own hardware it can partner with installation companies and home builders to put Alexa devices in homes before you even move in.
What‘s next for Amazon in the smart home? According to Bloomberg, the big secret is it’s working on a home robot. Much like myriad other companies right now, so this would hardly be a surprise. CEO Jeff Bezos is less secretive about his ambitions for Alexa, however. “We want customers to be able to use Alexa wherever they are,” Bezos said back in July. “There are now tens of thousands of developers across more than 150 countries building new devices using the Alexa Voice Service, and the number of Alexa-enabled devices has more than tripled in the past year.” Bezos wants Alexa in every part of your life – and he usually gets what he wants.