Amazon is reportedly developing smart glasses — a wearable device featuring its Alexa voice assistant — the Financial Times reports, citing sources familiar with the e-commerce giant’s plans.
The spectacles recall Alphabet’s Google Glass, which itself experienced a great shift in marketing — from general consumers to specialty professionals in areas like medicine, factories and other workplace uses.
Amazon is also reportedly expanding its gadgetry with a new home security camera system that communicates through its Echo and Dot interactive speakers. Alphabet isn't trailing behind, though. On Wednesday, the company unveiled a new home security system via its Nest unit that can be used remotely and eliminates many of the most cumbersome aspects of traditional security systems.
Wearables continue to be popular among dedicated fitness types, but haven’t made the inroads into daily life and retail that many had expected. Google Glass, first hailed as a futuristic game-changer, was lampooned and ultimately rejected by the public — and therefore by marketers, though it is being widely used within some niche markets.
Similarly, Apple Watch so far has failed to live up to its initial hype; the company addressed a common complaint among users — the requirement to tether it to an iPhone — by introducing a new Apple Watch that functions on its own.
Amazon’s glasses — if they really are on the horizon — would likely face both criticisms. But it behooves Amazon to continue to search for ways to introduce Alexa into any corner of the home, office or street that it can. Amazon devices like the Echo and Dot speakers, along with apps in mobile devices, could provide some $10 billion in revenue by 2020 and be a "mega-hit," according to a note published this spring by investment bank RBC Capital Markets, though Google has been working hard to add features that Alexa doesn't have.
Indeed, there's something of an arms race in the voice assistant space. Walmart and The Home Depot in recent weeks announced they have partnered with Google to bring voice shopping to their customers, using Google's voice-assistant technology on both Google Home and the Google Express website and app.
The reality is that voice-enabled tasks, including shopping, aren't all that easy to accomplish with any of these players, but that will soon change as they evolve "Voice shopping may not look very useful right now. Indeed, purchase experience through Alexa is quite mixed as many people find it hard to use and do not see the point," Zhewei Zhang, an assistant professor of information systems who researches digital innovation at Warwick Business School, recently told Retail Dive in an email. "However, I do believe it is the future of online shopping."
Amazon appears to be working on it. The e-commerce giant is reportedly hiring hundreds of new engineers to focus on Alexa technology developments and prioritizing hiring efforts for projects that support its virtual assistant over hiring for other projects.