Amazon is making it easier for original device makers to build fully featured headphones, wearables, and earbuds powered by Alexa. To this end, the Seattle company today announced in a blog post that the Alexa Mobile Accessory (AMA) Kit — the software stack that enables devices to tap Alexa for music playback, smart home device control, calendar management, and tens of thousands of third-party skills — is gaining features in the form of location-aware responses and access to more music services.
Additionally, Amazon spotlighted new dev kits and white-label solutions from Knowles and My Music Group.
Now, Alexa built-in devices that implement the AMA protocol — which routes voice commands via Bluetooth to a paired Android or iOS device running the Alexa companion app — can take advantage of GPS-based location support, allowing users to ask for local weather information, movie times, and searches, or for directions and traffic updates using Google Maps, Waze, and Apple Maps. Those devices also have access to an expanded range of music services including Amazon Music, Pandora, Audible, Kindle, Sirius XM, Gimme Radio, and more as of this week, plus new wake-word engines from Amazon, Retune, and others that deliver hands-free experiences.
As for the aforementioned turnkey solutions, there are three from which to choose: the Knowles AISonic SmartMic Headset, and My Music Group’s BarbetSound AskMe and BarbetSound TalkEasy.
The AISonic SmartMic Headset — the first Amazon-qualified development kit for hearables with voice-initiated Alexa functionality — features Knowles’ IA611 SmartMic chip, which combines a mic with a low-power digital signal processor (DSP) core in a single compact package. It’s paired with the Bestechnic BES2000i BT MCU (which incorporates the AMA protocol stack and a wake word engine from Retune) and, somewhat uniquely, its architecture allows certain components to remain in low power mode (less than 1mA ) while the SmartMic monitors the microphone audio for the Alexa wake word.
The BarbetSound AskMe and BarbetSound TalkEasy both implement the AMA protocol to connect with the Alexa mobile app, but that’s where their similarities end. The AskMe — an Alexa built-in Bluetooth headphone with cushioned ear cups and a foldable design — sports a microphone and 12mW transducer output, in addition to a rechargeable 300mAh battery that lasts up to 10 hours at maximum volume. Meanwhile, the TalkEasy — an Alexa built-in Bluetooth earbud — has a microphone and 8mW transducer output, with a 70mAh battery that gets four hours on a charge.
Amazon first introduced the AMA Kit in January 2018, ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. It was initially made available to select manufacturers like Jabra, Bose, and Sony, but became generally available last November.
Earlier this year, Amazon revealed that more than 150 products have Alexa built in.