Amazon has had a steady focus on connecting home devices with its Echo smart speakers, from forging ties with more than 60,000 smart home devices to attempts to make Alexa a resource for gamers using consoles like Xbox.
The tech giant took another step in that direction today with the introduction of Custom Interfaces, a way for developers and device manufacturers to connect gadgets with Alexa and Echo smart speakers.
Custom Interfaces is part of the Gadgets Toolkit introduced in beta last year with partners like toy maker Hasbro, and it allows for more dynamic integration of devices with Echo speakers. While the Gadgets Toolkit can manipulate devices to do things based on an Alexa timer or music like this twerking teddy bear, Custom Interfaces can go even deeper, with exchanges tied to custom Alexa skills. Doing so allows for Alexa to be part of an ongoing story or dialogue as people use toys, board games, and play games in the home.
For example, Custom Interfaces can make a sound effect every time you score a basket with a toy hoop on the wall, or give music lessons with Alexa when connected to a piano keyboard.
Custom Interfaces and Alexa Gadgets Toolkit are both designed to give manufacturers a way to hand account management duties over to Amazon, allowing a customer to avoid the need to download another app or create a new user account.
Custom Interfaces require use of a custom Alexa skill in order for manufacturers to configure directives, or messages from the skill to the device, and events, messages from the device to the skill.
Also today: Amazon introduced an invite-only private beta for Custom Interfaces for kids under 13.
In other AI assistant news this week, Strategy Analytics found that Alexa continues to lead in overall global smart speaker sales, but the news for Echo devices isn’t all cheery: An annual review of AI assistants and their ability to accurately answer questions found Alexa trailing behind both Siri and Google Assistant. The report, though, did find that all popular AI assistants made gains in their ability to accurately respond to user queries.