Amazon Customers Will Pick The Next Alexa Device With New Kickstarter-Style ‘Build It’ Program
Amazon is asking customers to choose the next Alexa smart device by pre-ordering one or more of the three short-listed products. The new Build It program, part of Amazon’s Day 1 Editions hardware testing initiative. If a device gathers enough orders before March 20, Amazon will begin manufacturing and selling it. For the first Build It crowdsourcing effort, Amazon has laid out prototypes of a kitchen scale, a thermal sticky note printer, and a voice-controlled cuckoo clock, each of which is controllable by Alexa via a compatible Echo smart speaker or smart display.
Alexa Builds It
All three devices can be examined on the Build It page, with their prices pegged to a special pre-order rate lower than what they will cost should they make it to the market. The smart scale has an LED display and buttons to operate it, but it can be used hands-free as an extension of Alexa. The $35 scale can compare any food being prepared with Alexa’s database of culinary and nutritional information related to weight. For example, Amazon says Alexa could tell how much sugar is in a handful of blueberries on the scale, with visuals if the scale is connected to an Echo Show. The smart sticky note printer is controlled by voice commands, much like the Alexa Print feature introduced last year. The lists, puzzles, and other creations are printed with thermal technology, using selective heat application to create patterns instead of ink and toner. The $90 device comes with yellow sticky notepaper, but success would mean adding more color options.
The cuckoo clock is notably open to customization, with 60 LED bulbs and a bird and pendulum that can both be removed depending on if the clock is wall-mounted or placed on a shelf. The clock can be operated by Alexa voice commands to set alarms and timers that involve the bid, the lights, and the built-in speakers. The cuckoo clock is Alexa’s latest horological home, but not the only one. Amazon previously worked with Disney to launch one of the classic Mickey Mouse clocks, but with Alexa embedded within. More recently, Amazon debuted a smart clock as one of several plug-ins for the modular hub of the Echo Flex for less than the $80 cuckoo clock.
Vote by Buy
“You have always played a critical role in helping us decide what products to build, which is why we launched Day 1 Editions—a program designed to introduce products we love, and want your early feedback on,” Amazon product manager Simon Joinson explained in a blog post. “[Y]our feedback was so valuable that we had to ask ourselves: How can we involve customers even earlier in the process? That led us to create Build It, a new Day 1 Editions program that gives you a say in what products we build next.”
The Build It program extends Day 1 Editons, which ran Amazon’s experiment in smart glasses and voice-enabled rings in the form of the Echo Frames and Echo Loop, respectively, last year. Amazon ran a closed pilot program with people willing to pay for the chance to have early editions of future Amazon products. Though the Frames did well enough to get an upgrade and go on sale for the general public, the Loop did not perform well enough to make it worthwhile to manufacture at scale. Amazon claimed that even that failure provided valuable insight. The Build It program essentially extends that model backward. It saves Amazon and the customer time and money in case the device doesn’t do well enough to justify manufacturing them or charging the customer.
“It’s low risk, high reward, and a whole lot of fun,” Joinson wrote. “If your favorite concept doesn’t get built this time, don’t worry—there are more fun ideas to come.”