Amazon could be working on a set of smartglasses that have its digital assistant, Alexa, embedded in them, according to a report from the Financial Times.
Citing "people familiar with its plans," the Financial Times reported that the wearable device would allow users to summon Alexa anywhere and at any time. The glasses would be designed to look like normal eyeglasses, the report said, and they would wirelessly tether to a companion smartphone.
Much like Google Glass, the reported Amazon smartglasses won't have insertable earbuds for sound. Instead, just like with Glass, they will rely on a bone-conduction audio system to transmit sound, the report said.
SEE: Wearable Device Policy Template (Tech Pro Research)
Some personnel changes also seem to point to Amazon pursuing smartglasses. As noted in the report, Amazon hired former Google Glass honcho Babak Parviz back in 2014, along with several other former Glass employees.
Brian Blau, research vice president at Gartner, said that Amazon has a lot to gain from potentially engaging with a form factor like smartglasses as a new modality.
"Amazon has shown that they do well when their customers have access to Amazon services—all the different shopping and app technology that they've been putting forward," Blau said. "They do that by making sure that Amazon is accessible pretty much everywhere."
With the further commoditization of smartphone hardware, it's no secret that the future of mobile tech will be built on artificial intelligence (AI) and digital assistants. Building out a new solution to deliver Alexa could help further Amazon's efforts in the fight to engage users.
Smartglasses and augmented reality (AR) headsets seems to also be seeing a resurgence among consumers and enterprise users alike. Google Glass was recently reborn as Glass Enterprise Edition, while Microsoft continues its work with Hololens and Epson targets specific use cases with its Moverio glasses. With a set of Alexa-enabled glasses, Amazon could be set to ride the wearable wave, too.
However, as Blau noted, there are still challenges ahead.
"With smartglasses, the interaction for consumers hasn't really been well defined," Blau said. "So, it's an open question about what type of experience Amazon would put forward."
Many of Amazon's other tech platforms are focused on lightweight experiences such as viewing content, playing games, and shopping, Blau said. In that way, a smartglasses play would tie into enterprise and developer cloud capabilities "because it's that cloud that's going to power those shopping experiences for any of their e-commerce partners," Blau said.
Additionally, the report said that Amazon could also be working on a home security camera that would work with other Echo products like the Echo Show. Both the smartglasses and the camera systems could be released by the end of the year.
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
- Amazon could be developing a set of Alexa-enabled smartglasses, according to a report from the Financial Times, citing people familiar with Amazon's plans.
- The glasses could help Amazon further compete against companies like Microsoft, Google and Epson, which are all developing smartglasses and AR headsets.
- Amazon is also working on a connected security camera to work with other Echo products, the report said.
- Google Glass reborn with improved Enterprise Edition for workers (TechRepublic)
- Are smart glasses about to make a comeback? (ZDNet)
- ODG R-7 AR-enabled Smartglasses: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)
- Apple AR smart glasses patent points to how they could be used (ZDNet)
- Executive's guide to the business value of VR and AR (free ebook) (TechRepublic)
Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.