A phone, an intercom, a smart voice assistant and access to millions of products online. What do all of these have in common? Nothing so far, but very soon Amazon intends to release one or more devices that will have Alexa as their backbone, but will also allow you to use the device to make calls and get intercom connectivity with other users of the device.
According to Recode, Amazon has been testing the devices in beta mode as of February 2017, so we could be very close to a new product launch.
Amazon clearly wants to exploit the momentum they’ve been given by consumers rushing to by the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Tap devices. Millions have been sold since the product line was introduced, and Amazon wants to fully utilize that momentum to take Alexa further than she’s ever gone before.
The problem with Amazon Alexa right now is functionality. Even though there are thousands of Alexa Skills available for users to enable on their Echo devices, a lot of them are very gimmicky or only appeal to small groups of users.
A recent study shows that nearly 70 percent of all Alexa Skills have one or no reviews, indicating very low usage. That’s one of the reasons Amazon is looking for additional integrations, new functionality and better traction with consumers.
Alexa is currently used to ask for music to be played, and that’s the widest type of use seen so far, but Amazon wants more engagement.
Hopefully, the ability to make phone calls will bring at least one smartphone functionality into home devices, which could be a useful thing. Imagine being able to make a voice call without having to pull out your phone each time.
In addition, users will be able to make intercom-like calls to other users of the new device, which is great if you want a hotline to a few close friends or family members.
There’s also the possibility of these devices coming with a video camera built in so you can make video intercom calls to users. Amazon recently led a Series A round of funding for Nucleus, a start-up that intends to replace in-home video intercom systems, but we don’t know if Amazon will use the tech in its new devices.
A lot of details about the upcoming Alexa-powered devices aren’t fully known, such as how contacts will be synced between your smartphone and the Alexa device, or even if you’ll have a new phone number specific to the device.
According to Recode, a former Amazon employee said that Jeff Bezos has always been interested in VoIP technologies like Skype, and that was even before the company launched the Echo. The employee also said that Bezos’s interest in getting something like that for an Amazon product could have been revived after the success of Amazon Echo.
Naturally, there’s no firm release date that we’re aware of at this point, but we’ll keep you posted. It’ll be soon, we’re hoping, since they’re already into the beta testing for the hardware.
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