Alexa may well be built-in to your next set of Bluetooth headphones. Amazon has now opened up its Alexa Mobile Accessory Tool Kit to all developers, meaning any headphone, wearable, or speaker manufacturer can integrate the smart assistant into its products, should they want to add that functionality.
Previously, only Bose, Sony, and Jabra had access to the toolkit, and were therefore the only companies that could put Amazon’s smart assistant into their products.
Now that the toolkit has been opened up, many smaller manufacturers can add cool features like the ability to use voice to change songs and pick playlists, as well as to ask Alexa questions about the weather, latest news, and more. It can even be used to set timers for workouts and perform various other useful tasks while on the go.
At this point, it seems like a win-win for both Amazon and smaller headphone makers, who didn’t previously have the clout to ink a partnership deal with the tech giant. On Amazon’s side, it means that the company will likely gain a further hold on the voice assistant market, where it has been duking it out with Apple’s Siri and Google’s voice assistant for years.
“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 can accelerate product development, software integration, and testing time, while reducing product support costs,” said Alfred Woo, a principal product manager for Alexa Voice Services, in an interview with The Verge. “After launch, their products are automatically updated to include new Alexa features and functionality when they arrive in the Amazon Alexa App.”
Qualcomm is already offering a reference design for a smart headset with Alexa to device makers for just $299, a price that virtually any company can easily stomach.
We likely won’t see a huge smattering of Alexa-enabled headphones in the next few months, given design and manufacturing timelines, but we should see a sharp uptick in devices with Alexa integration throughout 2019. In fact, many companies may begin promising the feature during this year’s CES conference in Las Vegas — where many new products are often announced well before they hit the market.