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If you’ve ever dreamed of making a stuffed bear twerk, a hula girl doll sway its hips, or a disco ball light a room to the beat of an Amazon Echo speaker, you’re in for a treat.
Amazon today announced that the MusicData Interface, which enables developers to build Bluetooth-connected devices that respond to tracks from Amazon Music playing on an Echo speaker, is available now in beta in the U.S., UK, and Germany, as part of the Alexa Gadgets Toolkit.
“Tens of millions of Alexa customers enjoy playing music on their Echo devices, and we’re excited to give [developers] the ability to make that experience even more enjoyable with accompanying gadgets,” Karen Yue, senior marketing manager at Amazon’s Alexa division, wrote in a blog post. “There are endless possibilities for you to build gadget experiences for Alexa customers to enjoy with music.”
So how’s it work? When you queue up a tune in Amazon Music (for example, by saying “Alexa, play popular songs on Amazon Music”), Alexa sends a “Tempo directive” — a single value representing the average tempo of the song in beats per minute — to the target gizmo. These directives can be programmed to trigger actions like whirring up motors, color cycling LEDs, and more.
One of the first customers to take advantage is Gemmy Industries, which used the MusicData interface to build its Twerking Bear plush. It moves its body motors to songs played, pauses its motors when the music stops, and adjusts the motors’ speed when a new song begins.
The MusicData Interface joins the other available components in the Alexa Gadgets Toolkit, like the SpeechData Interface, which beams Speechmarks Directives containing visemes (mouth positions that correspond to spoken sounds) to motors via Bluetooth, and the StateListener Interface, which sends StateUpdate Directives that cause target gadgets to react when they “hear” a wake word.
The Alexa Gadgets Toolkit launched in beta in September 2018, and comprises self-service APIs and “gadget interfaces” that enable developers to tap into wake word detection, speech, notifications, timers, alarms, reminders, over-the-air updates, and other Echo services and software features. Also in tow is helpful sample code and technical documentation.
Gadgets Toolkit launch partners include Hasbro, WowWee Group Limited, Baby Plus, Tomy International, Novalia, and eKids, who’ve used it to make toys like smart toothbrushes, a touch-sensitive table mat, and more. Perhaps the most infamous creation so far is the Alexa-enabled Big Mouth Billy Bass, which hit store shelves two months ago.
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