Amazon’s interest in fashion is clear — but can the tech giant do for eyewear what it did for smart home gadgets?
According to a new report, the Echo Show maker could be closer to finding out. The Financial Times claimed the company is developing a new voice-powered “smart glasses” device that ties into its Alexa voice technology. The purpose, according to “people familiar with its plans,” is to allow unfettered access to the virtual assistant from any location.
Like most wearables, the device will reportedly work by pairing with a smartphone. But unlike Snapchat’s somewhat goofy, camera-festooned Spectacles, Google’s Glass or any of the growing spectrum of VR goggles available, Amazon’s connected eyewear will be designed to look like normal eyeglasses, but feature bone-conduction technology capable of piping in Alexa audio sans headphones.
The company is also looking to expand its Echo universe, FT added, with a home security camera that could send a feed into the Echo Show’s display. Amazon declined to comment.
Historically, Amazon’s hardware efforts have been a mixed bag, with dings like the failed Fire phone and successes that include the Kindle e-reader and its Fire TV. Against that backdrop, the company’s Echo product line has been a notable hit, bringing voice-assistant technology into millions of homes.
The company doesn’t reveal Echo sales figures, but the numbers reach into the tens of millions. Some calculations peg Alexa at the top of the smart speaker space — a market in hot pursuit by the likes of Google, with its Google Home appliance, and now Apple via its Homepod device. This summer, research firm eMarketer revealed that Amazon has captured 70 percent market share in voice-activated speakers.
Pairing its voice technology with visuals, the company debuted an Echo Look camera and the Echo Show touchscreen-enabled tabletop device which, among other things, can take inventory of your closet, recommend outfits and weigh in on style choices, courtesy of the “Style Check” feature.
The notion of Alexa leaping onto the face is intriguing. The effort would put a face-worn device into Amazon’s wheelhouse during a key inflection point for the augmented and virtual reality technologies.
The company has the technical chops to pursue it. Three years ago, Amazon snagged Google Glass founder Babak Parviz, who is reportedly heavily involved in the Alexa eyewear, and employs other ex-Glass staffers across research, design and engineering.
The e-commerce giant has another important advantage: Its servers heave with the fashion-preference data of hundreds of millions of shoppers, which could fuel the sort of style-conscious design necessary for consumer appeal — and shame anyone who ever thought geeky cameras jutting out of eyeglass frames were a good idea.