In short: There's now an entirely new way for Alexa-enabled smart devices to be built far outside of the speaker or display categories with Amazon's recent introduction of the Alexa Gadget Toolkit. The overall goal is to extend Alexa into robotics and further home products by giving developers a framework that allows for those interactions. To that end, the new toolkit includes a variety of 'interfaces' all centered around Alexa API. Among the examples Amazon provides for its use, meanwhile, are products intended to bring the AI assistant to users of all ages. In fact, with early adopters like Hasbro, WowWee Group Limited, Gemmy Industries, Baby Plus, TOMY International, Novalia, and iHome's eKids already signed on, some of those are set to arrive before the year's end.
Background: As already mentioned, the new developer tools build on API that Amazon has already been put in place with its own Echo-branded speakers and speaker-enabled displays. The online retail and shipping giant has been leading in that particular arena since the first devices were brought to market and in the smart home market in general. This move appears to be a continuation of the company's drive to keep that momentum going and dominate new segments that Amazon is intent on effectively creating for itself. For example, wake word detection is going to play a big role with the new products since it will allow devices such as robots to physically respond when spoken to. Similarly, the API pertaining to alarms, timers, reminders, and notifications will enable lights, motors, sound chips, and other components to react based on a given set of manufacturer-set requirements. Beyond that, Amazon says it's toolkit's text-to-speech features allow for something as complex as synchronicity with a pair of robotic lips. Music features will be added in the future as well.
Impact: In a very real sense, Amazon is looking to completely change the AI smart home game again, just as it did with its Echo Show and Echo Spot. This time around, however, the company is moving into interactive robotics and real-world physical responses, in addition to physical interactions. Some of the products described for children, for instance, include an Alexa-enabled electric toothbrush, a rubber duck called Waddles the Smart Duck, and a touch-sensitive dinner mat. Simultaneously, Gemmy Industries's Big Mouth Billy Bass is getting an Alexa-flavored update and dancing plush toys are also said to be in the works with the new toolkit. That will undoubtedly lead to a wave of new innovation in the connected devices that collectively make up the IoT.