By Nick Statt
Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant is about to expand to a new class of devices, especially hands-free listening and communications. In a blog post published today, Amazon says it’s made its Alexa Mobile Accessory Kit tool widely available to developers. First introduced back in January, the software development kit was designed as a way to bring Alexa to Bluetooth headphones, headsets, and wearables. Now, with the SDK opening up, that’s closer to actually happening. Qualcomm has even released a smart headset with Alexa reference design to help manufacturers get started.
The goal here, from Amazon’s perspective, is to make Alexa an adept voice assistant for hands-free devices so you can access the voice assistant while exercising, doing some type of outdoor activity, or just day-to-day when you may have your hands full. The SDK initially supported wireless Bluetooth headphones from Bose, Jabra, and Sony, but it’s now being positioned more widely to support smartwatches, portable Bluetooth speakers, and more traditional headsets.
Effectively, it allows devices to communicate with a phone’s Alexa app without requiring the device makers to build an app or Alexa skill of their own to help this happen. “For device makers, there is no need to develop and maintain a custom Alexa app. By leveraging the Amazon Alexa App that is readily available for Android and iOS, device makers accelerate product development, software integration, and testing time, while reducing product support costs,” explains Alfred Woo, a principal product manager for Alexa Voice Services. “After launch, their products are automatically updated to include new Alexa features and functionality when they arrive in the Amazon Alexa App.”
As a developer, you can pick up Qualcomm’s $299 reference design prototype to start testing the Mobile Accessory Kit now. It should be some time before we see actual products sporting Alexa integration of this variety. But with CES 2019 right around the corner, it’s likely quite a few new Bluetooth devices will promise Alexa support down the line.