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Amazon to enter the wearable market with Alexa-powered smart glasses

Sahil Bhalla | Updated on: 20 September 2017, 20:54 IST
(Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Amazon want people to be able to use its digital assistant Alexa wherever they are, and they're taking this to a whole new level with a new range of wearables. According to a report in the Financial Times, Amazon is developing a pair of smart glasses to house the Alexa AI, with a launch possibly by the end of 2017.

The company is also working on a home security camera, which would theoretically be linked to the existing line of Echo-connected devices and expand their capabilities.

Smart Glasses

Amazon's smart glasses are a way to achieve earbud-free housing of its Alexa AI. How is Amazon going to be able to do this? By pairing the glasses with a bone-conduction audio system, the wearer of the smart glasses will be able to hear Alexa without being wired in. The glasses would also connect wirelessly to smartphones.

The founder of the Google Glasses project, Babak Parviz, and other former Google Glass researchers are currently working at Amazon labs and hence this announcement shouldn't come as a surprise.

Apparently, the glasses are being designed to look like a regular pair of spectacles you'd find anyway, so as not to standout too much.

With Amazon having no mobile platform of its own, the company is at a disadvantage vis-a-vis Google and Apple. It cannot have Alexa in a smartphone without getting a mobile phone manufacturer on its side. Hence millions of smartphone users cannot just summon Alexa like they can with Apple's Siri or Google Assistant. This has led Amazon to develop alternative connected devices.

After discontinuing production of Google Glass last year, Alphabet re-introduced the wearable handset earlier in 2017. Amazon doesn't want Alphabet to be the only player in the segment. It's a gamble at this point in time for Amazon to be entering the wearable market. After all, Amazon hasn't been doing well with its stable of hardware. We saw just that with the Fire smartphones that tanked a couple of years ago, but it's a gamble Amazon will have to take to curb Alphabet's supremacy.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos though isn't betting on the wearable doing well on its own. Bezos is betting on Alexa being the catalyst for the growth of hardware sales.

Confidence from Echo

While its line of Fire smartphones may have spectacularly failed, Amazon's Echo was a surprise hit. Echo, introduced in 2014, excited the industry. Rivals were quick to put out their own version of smart speakers. Google Home came out soon after, with Apple also debuting the Siri-housing HomePod. All this while, Amazon has doubled down on its Echo line of products. Echo Dot, Echo Tap, Echo Show and Echo Look.

The Financial Times report says that Amazon has a secretive Lab 126 product development division. This division is tasked with studying the smart home market and coming up with devices that should be next to the market. The next product may just be an Echo Product security camera. The camera would be part of its “smart home” hardware product line. The Echo camera will also be internet-connected and will be able to tie into the whole line of Echo products.

First published: 20 September 2017, 20:54 IST
Sahil Bhalla @IMSahilBhalla

Sahil is a correspondent at Catch. A gadget freak, he loves offering free tech support to family and friends. He studied at Sarah Lawrence College, New York and worked previously for Scroll. He selectively boycotts fast food chains, worries about Arsenal, and travels whenever and wherever he can. Sahil is an unapologetic foodie and a film aficionado.