The first augmented-reality glasses with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant will be shown next week at CES in Las Vegas — manufactured by a 75-employee company rather than the e-commerce giant’s growing devices division.
Vuzix Corp will show off a pair of smart glasses that can talk to Amazon.com Inc’s voice-activated digital assistant and display information to the wearer’s field of view, Vuzix Chief Executive Officer Paul Travers said in an interview. Vuzix’s Alexa integration is part of an Amazon program that allows third-party hardware manufacturers to put the digital assistant into their products. In October, Sonos Inc. unveiled a smart speaker with Alexa’s system for controlling music playback. The strategy is designed to put Amazon’s service, which generates revenue for the company, in as many places as possible to sell more products.
Amazon confirmed that Rochester, New York-based Vuzix’s device will be the first smart glasses with Alexa. The company is “excited about the potential of the glasses and the ability to bring Alexa to customers in a new way,” a company spokeswoman said. Vuzix’s shares gained 8.5 per cent to $7 at 2:04 pm in New York after jumping as much as 16 per cent on the news.
Voice assistants and augmented-reality products will be highlighted at next week’s CES consumer electronics show. Executives from Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant will be seeking new partners and other big technology companies, including Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc’s Oculus division, will be at the show behind the scenes as they ramp up their virtual-reality and augmented-reality products. AR is a technology that superimposes digital information such as maps, text messages and more onto a person’s view of the real world, while VR submerses a user into a completely different digitally created world.
Vuzix will release its AR glasses by the second quarter at a cost of about $1,000, Travers said. While it’s a “high price point,” he said, “the ultimate goal is to have it under $500, and we’ll be able to do that” by 2019. Wearers, who must be Amazon customers or become Amazon customers to enable Alexa’s capabilities, could for example ask the digital assistant to pull up a map or display sports scores on the glasses.
Amazon hasn’t said whether it will release its own branded smart glasses with Alexa, but Travers expects it to happen. “I think everyone is going to come out with glasses sooner or later,” he said.
Apple is aiming to have the technology ready for its own augmented reality glasses by 2019 so that it can release a device by 2020, Bloomberg News reported last year. Oculus said it would release a $200 standalone VR headset called the Oculus Go this year that doesn’t require connectivity to a PC or smartphone. Google was an early player in the AR glasses world, launching the Google Glass prototype before pulling back and focusing on adding AR features to its Pixel smartphone and releasing an enterprise-oriented headset.
Amazon’s first Alexa device launch was the Echo voice speaker in 2014, but the company has since released speakers with screens, tablets, and TV set-top boxes.