Amazon has made its Alexa virtual assistant wearable and wireless for the first time, taking the AI helper out of the home or car for the first time.
The technology giant unveiled its first Alexa-powered earphones – Echo Buds – on Wednesday and also revealed that a pair of Alexa-enabled glasses, known as Echo Frames, were in development.
The frames, which also include built-in directional speakers so users can have emails, text messages and other information read to them by Alexa, will be sold in limited numbers as part of a trial.
The trial will also include the Echo Loop – a smart ring that vibrates to alert users of notifications but also contains two microphones and a speaker to allow for some voice interactions with Alexa.
The gadgets mark the first time Alexa will be available completely hands-free while users are on the move, and signal an expansion of Amazon’s plans for their virtual assistant.
At a press event at the company’s headquarters in Seattle, the firm announced a range of new, now traditional smart speakers in the Echo range, but it is the introduction of more flexible and mobile devices powered by the assistant that caught the attention.
Unlike other so-called smart glasses such as Google Glass, the Echo Frames do not include a camera or video screen set-up, instead operating as normal prescription glasses but with the added function of a microphone and a link to a user’s smartphone which enables wearers to use Alexa whenever they wish.
Tech industry analyst Geoff Blaber, from CCS Insight, said the new devices were the first sign of Amazon’s ambition to have Alexa more constantly part of people’s lives, outside the home.
He called the Echo Frames “a tentative step into smart glasses. Smart move to keep it simple. No display, no camera. Just Alexa”, adding that the Buds “strengthen Alexa’s role on the go between home, work, car.”
Amazon has said the Frames and the Loop will both go on sale through a “special invite” schedule and in limited numbers, but has not yet confirmed a date for their launch.