Amazon’s Alexa comes to cars, wearables next on radar

Days after Amazon empowered Alexa to give microwaves cooking instructions, the artificial intelligence-based voice assistant is now coming to cars.

Drivers will now be able to ask Alexa for directions, tell it to play or pause music, and get a host of information from a vehicle's infotainment system.

Panasonic, the first partner for Amazon's Onboard car technology, made the announcement on Monday at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2018 in Las Vegas.

Panasonic said that passengers and drivers will be able interact with Alexa even when there is no internet connectivity.

"Enabling some of these capabilities even without an internet connection is revolutionary," Tom Gebhardt, president of Panasonic Corporation of North America, said in a statement.

The Jeff Bezos-led Amazon had earlier partnered with Ford and Hyundai for in-car assistance systems. But in Panasonic, Amazon has tied up with a leader in the in-car information and entertainment space with 11.5% market share, according to a Strategy Analytics report.

Another report from Research and Markets sees the in-car infotainment space growing into a $30 billion market by 2022 - which would explain Amazon's zeal.

The company is not stopping with cars. Amazon has said that it wants Alexa on wearables, fitness devices and several other products.

It intends to place its digital assistant via the Alexa mobile accessory kit in hearables, headphones, smart bands and smart watches. This means that original device/equipment manufacturers can put Alexa on their devices without having to key in new codes.

"Bluetooth audio-capable devices built with this new kit can connect directly to the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) via the Amazon Alexa App (for Android and iOS) on the customer’s mobile device," the company said in a statement.

It further said that users who connect their devices to Alexa can stream media, avail smart home abilities, get calendar management and a host of other tools via AVS.

"Bose, Jabra, iHome, Beyerdynamic, Bowers and Wilkins are committed to bringing the Alexa experience to their Bluetooth audio-capable products this year," Amazon said.

Amazon had launched Alexa in late-2014 and it competes directly with Apple's Siri, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana and Samsung's Bixby.

Alexa currently dominates the voice-controlled speaker market through its Echo devices and Amazon is trying to upskill its assistant to stay ahead of its rivals.

According to a report from Emarketer released in May last year, Amazon dominates the voice-controlled speaker market. It had 70.6% of all voice-enabled speaker users in the US compared to 23.8% captured by Google Home.

Another report from VoiceLabs published in January last year also ranked Alexa as the leading voice AI in terms of market share. Survey data from Edison Research released last June found that Amazon Alexa-enabled devices had 82% market share compared to just 18% for Google Home.

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