On Friday, Amazon announced that it was expanding the feature set of the Alexa Mobile Accessory Kit (AMAK) to allow for more Alexa capabilities and integration with headphones, earbuds, headsets and other Bluetooth devices. According to the Amazon’s developer blog post, the goal here is to make it even easier for Bluetooth device OEMs to provide delightful on-the-go experiences via Alexa.
There were three notable things contained in this update. The first is that users will now be able to control more music services through Alexa, including Amazon Music, Pandora, Audible, Kindle, Siruis XM, Gimme Radio and Music Skills Kit for Live Streaming. It’s becoming apparent that Amazon wants users to start to view Alexa as a “media remote” when using it with ear-worn devices.
The second is GPS-location support, which will really start to make this vision of #hearables + #VoiceFirst manifest. Users will be able to ask Alexa for directions and traffic updates using Google Maps, Waze and Apple Maps, while also being able to ask location-specific queries, such as weather, movie times and searches.
The third is the addition of the Knowles AISonic SmartMic Headset Development Kit, which according to Amazon is, “a production-ready implementation of AMAK and the first Amazon-qualified development kit for hearables with voice-initiated Alexa functionality.” If that sounds a bit confusing, I had Andy Bellavia, director of market development at Knowles, on my video series, Oaktree TV, earlier this year to discuss the Smart Mic technology (see video above). In essence, Knowles’ SmartMic will cut down on latency while also providing an additional layer of security to allow users to seamlessly call up their smart assistant on-the-go, without having to worry about the issue of an your hearable recording every conversation you say.
All three of these are incremental, but these updates, along with additional updates over time will really start to make hearables a compelling avenue to communicate with our smart assistants. Amazon has announced that it is developing its own hearable due out later this year, but until then, we should continue to see Amazon keep investing in AMAK to make it more feasible for third-party in-the-ear device OEMs to provide Alexa functionality with their hearables.
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