AWS Expands Alexa Voice Services to Low-Power Devices Like Light Switches, Toys

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is increasing its footprint in the “internet of things” today by bringing voice control capabilities to low-powered devices by offloading the majority of the work to the cloud.

According to a new report from TechCrunch, the voice assistant will now run on devices with as little as 1MB of memory and low-power chips like the Cortex-M processor, meaning in the future you could find Alexa in lightbulbs and simple toys.

Amazon is making this happen by offloading workloads that require intense computing power and memory from the device to the cloud, without increasing cloud computing costs for the device maker. The company says the lower requirements will reduce the bill of materials for these smaller Alexa-enabled devices by up to 50 percent, significantly reducing the ultimate retail price.

“That means you will be able to hopefully in the future see many more form factors and devices now being able to be voice-controlled and directly spoken to,” said Dirk Didascalou, the vice president of internet of things for Amazon Web Services. “I leave it up to your imagination to think what that would mean.”

Other tasks, including retrieving, buffering, decoding and mixing audio on devices, are also offloaded to the cloud, meaning the bar for Alexa entry has been set lower than ever before. Everything from light switches to thermostats could potentially be controlled entirely using voice.

“With this reduction in production cost, customers can now cost-effectively build new categories of differentiated voice-enabled products such as light switches, thermostats, and small appliances,” AWS wrote in a blog post. “This allows consumers to talk directly to Alexa in new parts of their home, office, or hotel rooms for a truly ambient experience.”

The announcements come in advance of the Amazon Web Services re:Invent conference next week and the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January.