Amazon to release Alexa-powered Smartglasses
Amazon is planning to release a pair of Alexa-enabled smartglasses as the latest addition to its range of voice-controlled devices, according to reports.
Unlike most previous smartglasses, such as the ill-fated Google Glass experiment and Snapchat’s Spectacles, the Amazon glasses won’t feature a camera in any form, bypassing the privacy concerns that have plagued the form-factor in the past.
Instead, they will focus on providing a link to Alexa, Amazon’s voice-controlled personal assistant, through a bone-conduction audio system, which transmits sounds into the wearer’s head by vibrating their skull, rather than through headphones inserted in their ear.
According to a report by the Financial Times, the glasses could be revealed at a product launch event expected to be held soon alongside a home security camera, designed to tie in with its Echo Show video screen. Other reports have suggested the company will shortly release a new version of the Fire TV, its streaming media set-top box, with an Echo-style speaker system built-in.
The leaks paint a picture of a company doubling down on its biggest tech success since the launch of the Kindle. The Amazon Echo now has a 76% share of the smart speaker market in the US, according to research firm CIRP, with 15m units in consumer’s homes. Google Home comes a distant second, with the remaining 24% of the market.
“Owners listen to music most on both Echo and Home, at least once a day or more often,” said Mike Levin, CIRPs co-founder. “They also use them frequently for information, like asking about the weather or sports scores, as well as setting timers and alarms.
“Owners also use them to control home automation accessories, like lights and outlets, thermostats, security systems, and even appliances, less frequently. Also, Google Home owners report using their devices daily or more often slightly more than Amazon Echo owners, across all these varied applications and uses.”
The Echo was launched in the US in November 2014, and was slowly rolled out to the UK and Germany over the next two years. In 2016, Amazon began expanding the range, releasing the smaller Echo Dot, the Echo Look camera and the Echo Show with a screen.
Alexa, the smart assistant that powers the range, also became integrated into Amazon’s Fire range of video streaming devices and tablets, and is also available as a smartphone app and plugin for third-party products such as cars, speakers and TVs.
But smartglasses are a product category that might still be a cure in search of a problem. Google’s attempts to create a market for its Glass hardware repeatedly ran into problems of privacy and desirability, to such an extent that the term “glasshole” was coined to describe their wearers.
Snap’s Spectacles, a simpler camera-enabled set of smartglasses, have avoided the bad PR that came with Glass, but have also failed to set the world on fire – the company doesn’t release sales figures for its hardware, but a big launch period has given way to little long-term interest in the devices.
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