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Amazon creates a bigger toy box with its new Alexa Gadgets Toolkit

Amazon is taking a deeper dive into the growing ecosystem of smart home gizmos with the new availability of its Alexa Gadgets Toolkit, which will enable both device manufacturers and smart home users with the do-it-yourself touch to enable sounds, movements, and other actions that are triggered through Echo commands.

First of all, what’s an Alexa Gadget? This is the umbrella for the growing line of accessories that pair to compatible Echo devices via Bluetooth. Some examples Amazon says are coming soon include a variety of dancing plush animatronics and an updated Big Mouth Billy Bass from Gemmy Industries.

The Alexa Gadgets Toolkit offers self-service APIs (application programming interfaces) that extend Alexa’s capabilities to trigger motors, lights, sound chips, and other device features. Early adopters of the new platform include Hasbro, WowWee, BabyPlus, and eKids (an affiliate of iHome). The toolkit, released as a beta rather than a full-fledged product, includes technical documentation and sample code that facilitate direct pairing and connectivity, communication and over-the-air updates between an Alexa Gadget and its paired Echo device.

The toolkit can also be used enable more than one Gadget Interface. Amazon says the list of currently available interfaces continues to grow but offers some examples — many of which seem to be intriguingly geared toward retail functions rather than home use.

  • Wake word detection: Respond when the wake word is detected, such a cuckoo clock that pops its head out whenever a customer says “Alexa.”
  • Speech: Sync movement to text-to-speech, such as a robot that lip syncs as Alexa reads the local weather report.
  • Notifications: Respond to notifications, such as a flag that raises each time a notification is received.
  • Timers: Respond when a timer has expired, such as an outdoor gong that chimes when backyard playtime timer has concluded.
  • Alarms: Respond when an alarm has been triggered, such as a switch that releases dog food each time an alarm has expired.
  • Reminders: Respond when a pre-set reminder has gone off, such as a pill box that plays a short tune and flashes an array of colors when it’s time for daily vitamins.
  • Music (coming soon): Create visual performances with music, such as a hula girl that sways her hips when songs are playing on Amazon Music.

Another shot across the retail market is expected to come from the company’s partnerships with companies that have been working on Alexa Gadgets for kids. Just a few forthcoming products include WowWee Group’s Brushbots (smart toothbrushes that encourage healthy habits), BabyPlus’ Waddles the Smart Duck, lending a hands-free helper to parents on the go, and Novalia’s Touchscapes, an interactive touch-sensitive table mat.

If you’re intrigued by all these new playthings, you can sign up to be notified when these products are available on Amazon.

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