Along with the new Echo and a bunch of added Alexa functionality, Amazon showed off a fun new piece of hardware at today’s event: Echo Buttons. Available at $19 for a two pack, the new products are a strange addition to the existing line, which mostly features various iterations of the standard Echo.
The product may well have additional functionality moving forward, but for the time being, it has one primary use: trivia games. The small, colored spheres serve as game show buzzers, tapping into Amazon’s new Gadgets API to provide at home, voice controlled trivia games. They look like Amazon took a page out of 1980s Milton Bradley’s playbook.
But games, and in particular, trivia games, have been some of Alexa’s top-performing skills to date. In fact, when Amazon began doling out cash payments to Alexa skill developers in May, it initially only rewarded game developers and those building trivia games. At the time, the company explained its decision by saying that game skills represented “some of the most engaging experiences on Alexa.” Only last month did it expand compensation to other categories.
Moving forward, it’s easy to see how one of these devices could be used as, say, a simple one-button smart home control. Still, it’s a bit of an odd move for Amazon that seems to be more about showing off the diversity of Alexa and helping encourage development of third-party products featuring the company’s smart assistant.
Is this the start of strange non-Echo products from Amazon? My guess is probably not. The product seems more like some Amazon staff member’s one-off pet project that somehow made it into product. Though at $19 for a two-pack, it could be a fun stocking stuffer.