Amazon’s new toolkit helps developers build Echo-connected accessories

Amazon wants developers to build their own Alexa Gadgets. As you may recall, Amazon last year launched its own gadgets – those weird, Bluetooth-connected Echo Buttons – but told us this year at CES that it had plans to open up gadget-building to the wider developer community. Now, it has. The company today is launching the Alexa Gadgets Toolkit into beta, allowing developers to build accessories that pair with Echo over Bluetooth.

The gadgets themselves could use things like lights, sound chips, or even motors, and can work with Alexa interfaces like notifications, timers, reminders, text-to-speech, or wake word detection. For example, you could create a device designed for outdoor use that chimes when a timer has concluded, or a switch that drops dog food into a bowl when an alarm expires. A pill box could chime or flash to remind you to take medications, and so on.

Support for interacting with music will be added soon, Amazon says. Yes, that’s right – Big Mouth Billy Bass will respond to Alexa voice commands and dance to music streamed via Alexa, as promised. It’s no longer just a hack.

The Alexa Gadgets Toolkit offers self-service APIs, including Gadget Interfaces that expose metadata of Alexa’s capabilities on compatible Echo devices, as well as technical documentation, sample code and more.

Already, a number of companies are building Alexa Gadgets, including HasbroWowWee Group LimitedGemmy IndustriesBaby PlusTOMY InternationalNovalia, and eKids (an affiliate of iHome). The partners aren’t necessarily detailing their creations at this point, but have offered some hints.

Toy maker Hasbro is working on immersive play experiences; TOMY will bring hands-free assistance to parents using its products; WowWee is creating Alexa-connected smart toothbrushes; BabyPlus is offering a connected rubber duckie that controls smart home devices and streams music; and Novalia is developing a touch-sensitive mat for kids’ immersive play.

These products will later be sold on Amazon, the retailer notes, starting later this year with the updated Big Mouth Billy Bass from Gemmy Industries.

The news comes just ahead of an Amazon Alexa press event, where the company is preparing to announce a variety of new Alexa devices. According to a recent CNBC report, Amazon has at least 8 in the works, including a microwave oven, subwoofer, and in-car gadget.