Kohler thinks its customers will soon ask their virtual assistants to fill up bathtubs, flush toilets, and get showers ready, thanks to a fleet of internet-connected hardware it will be showing off at the Consumer Electronics Show next week.
The venerable plumbing fixture company today unveiled Kohler Konnect, a cloud service that can provide a backend for syncing users’ preferences with different gadgets — like a new bathroom mirror that includes speakers and a built-in version of Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant. That mirror can then interact with other fixtures, like Kohler’s DTV+ shower control system (which can drive flow through multiple shower heads at once), the PerfectFill bathtub kit, and the Numi intelligent toilet.
Yes, that means “Alexa, ask Kohler to flush my toilet” is something you might end up saying in the near future — if you’re considering a bathroom remodel or feel like shelling out for an Alexa-enabled mirror and connected toilet. These features are supposed to make it easier for people to control their bathrooms and other water fixtures (like a kitchen faucet), as they increasingly do with other smart home devices.
In addition to its work with Alexa, Kohler is integrating Konnect with Apple’s HomeKit and the Google Assistant so that people can choose their preferred virtual assistant when it comes to talking about the bathroom. The company is also looking to connect to Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant, in the future.
Rafael Rexach, the company’s design manager of smart homes and emerging technologies, said in an interview with VentureBeat that enabling that interaction actually took more work than people might expect, since Kohler had to work with companies like Amazon and Apple to make sure their virtual assistants correctly recognized bathroom-related words.
People who would prefer not to discuss their bathroom activities with a virtual assistant can also control all of the functions inside Konnect fixtures with a mobile app that the company plans to release.
All of this is still months out, however. The Verdera Alexa-enabled mirror is expected to launch in March, with other fixtures coming later this year.
Update 2:00 p.m. Pacific: This story has been updated with details about Kohler’s plans to integrate with Microsoft’s Cortana virtual assistant.