Amazon is working on building a pair of smart glasses to house its Alexa voice assistant, and a home security camera that could be linked to its existing Echo connected devices to further expand their capabilities, according to a report in the FT citing people familiar with the company’s plans.
The newspaper says one or both of these products could be launched before the end of the year, alongside updates to existing Echo devices.
An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment, saying company policy is not to comment on rumours or speculation.
According to the FT, the smart glasses are intended to be purely an earbuds-free housing for Amazon’s Alexa AI — with a bone-conduction audio system that would enable the wearer to hear Alexa without the need to be wired in.
With no mobile platform of its own to build on, Amazon has a strategic disadvantage vs Google and Apple because it cannot bake its voice AI into smartphone hardware where millions of engaged users could easily summon it — hence the company working on a plethora of alternative connected devices to try to put Alexa within earshot anyway.
The idea for the glasses, which would be its first wearable, would be to do just that: Enable Alexa to be summoned from anywhere, vs the current situation where users are barking commands at static in-home speakers.
The FT reports the glasses would wirelessly tether to a user’s smartphone for connectivity. They are also apparently being designed to look like a regular pair of spectacles, so they could be worn comfortably and unobtrusively.
The paper notes that Amazon hired Babak Parviz, founder of Google Glass, in 2014, and says he’s been closely involved in the project. It also points to several other Glass researchers, engineers and designers having moved to Amazon’s labs — per analysis of their LinkedIn profiles.
And while Google Glass roundly failed to ignite consumer interest — which can be partly blamed on its awkward, geeky appearance, including the inclusion of a camera and a small screen positioned in the eyeline — the FT says Amazon’s specs would likely eschew both camera and screen to avoid the risk of similar concerns, while also maximizing battery life.
That does mean the glasses appear to be a lot more basic than the AR specs Apple has been rumored to be working on — but also likely to come to market a lot sooner.
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