The Amazon Echo Dot, the retailerâ€™s puck-shaped smart speaker, is is killing it this year. Part of its success comes from its Alexa artificial intelligence software, which makes Amazonâ€™s Echo lineup able to respond to your questions, play music, set timers and do lots of other useful stuff.
But if you havenâ€™t picked up an Echo device yet, that doesnâ€™t mean you canâ€™t give Alexa a go. Lots of third-party gadget makers are adding Alexa to their gear. From walkie talkies to watches, you can take Alexa with you wherever you go â€” even if itâ€™s just into another room.
The auto industry may be abuzz with self-driving cars, but having cars that can speak with Amazon Alexa will really get people talking. Currently in final testing, three Ford models featuring the companyâ€™s SYNC platform will be able to speak with Alexa by the end of the year. The Ford Focus Electric, Fusion Energi, and C-Max Energi will be able to do everything from play your favorite music or crank up your thermostat with the push of a steering wheel button â€” and a voice command. BMW and Genesis (Hyundaiâ€™s luxury brand) vehicles are also destined to get the Amazon-linked technology, as the companies announced at CES 2016.
Stereo Speaker of the House
Reviews are mixed on the Echo speakersâ€™ sound quality. One alternative for better audio could be to pair an Echo Dot with a better-quality Bluetooth boom box. But for some audiophiles, even that might not be good enough. Instead, for $160, Jam Voice provides stereo sound as well as access to Alexa. The $80 third-party Bluetooth speaker provides push-button access to Alexa, and can pair with another Jam (which is why the full setup costs $160) creating a pair of satellite speakers, perfect for filling a room with sound or spreading music across a floor. And with your hours of battery life, it also doubles as a good portable sound machine.
Watch What You Say
Apple Watch users may be big Siri fans, but if you want to get Alexa on your wrist, youâ€™ll have to go with a less obvious choice. The Martian mVoice line of smartwatches have analog looks but digital smarts, connecting wearers to Amazonâ€™s digital assistant technology. Starting at $295, the watches come with access to Alexaâ€™s 5,000 skills right out of the box.
Whether theyâ€™re down the hall or across the world, people want to communicate with each other, and thatâ€™s the thought behind the $199 Nucleus Intercom. Designed with a simple user interface in mind, the one-pound, HD webcam-clad system has an eight-inch screen, stereo speakers, and runs on both Wi-Fi and Ethernet. It can be wall-mounted or perched on a table, has big buttons that make it great for older (or younger) users and a physical shutter to cover the camera when you need privacy. And with Alexa integration, users can also talk to Amazonâ€™s voice assistant, letting them do everything from adding milk to their grocery list to turning on the lights.
Walking and Talking
Smartphones are incredibly convenient â€” until you need to pick one up and tap at a bunch of tiny icons just to send a quick communique to a friend or co-worker. Orion Labs Onyx, a $129 walkie talkie-like communicator (two-packs cost $199) can pair with your iOS or Android device to do that at the push of a broach (or bauble, however you want to describe it). The little circular wearable can latch onto your clothing and put communications within easy reach â€” including to Amazon Alexa. Tapping on it will let Onyx perform any Alexa-linked skill that Echos can do, minus playing music (because it wasnâ€™t designed to be a speaker). The Amazon integration will be enabled in the first quarter of 2017, but the device itself is available now.
Get the Message
If the kitchen is the hub of the house, and Alexa is the hub of your smart home, it only makes sense to put an Amazon-linked device in the kitchen. Invoxiaâ€™s Triby, a $199 portable speaker and message center, is an excellent way to integrate Alexa into your home without adding extra clutter to your countertop. Backed with magnets, the speaker affixes firmly to your refrigerator. The deviceâ€™s e-ink display lets people send notes to the device via the Triby app, and when the message arrives, a little flag pops out of the side to alert users. And you can call out to Alexa without having to push a button â€” perfect for when youâ€™re up to your knuckles in a recipe.