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Amazon’s Alexa-enabled microwave hands-on: it cooks but does not speak

Amazon’s Alexa-enabled microwave hands-on: it cooks but does not speak


It’s a showcase for Amazon’s Alexa devkit

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I just heated up a mug of water in a microwave. It got hot. The difference is that I used the new AmazonBasics Microwave, which works with Alexa. That “works with Alexa” phrasing and the fact that this isn’t the “Echo Microwave” should tell you that this thing doesn’t have any microphones or a speaker (beyond one that can beep) on it. Instead, it’s a $59.99 device meant to showcase Amazon’s new system for companies to make their regular gadgets into smart gadgets.

The way the Alexa integration works is pretty clever: when you set it up, it will get paired to your Alexa system as “the microwave,” and then you can command Alexa to, you know, cook stuff. There are very few buttons on the microwave because all the presets for various food types have been stored in Amazon’s cloud instead.

It is, indeed, a microwave

There is an Alexa button on the microwave, and it does two things: it turns on the microphone on one of your Echo speakers so you don’t have to use the “Alexa” wake word, and, more importantly, it sends a signal so that whatever you’re about to say will be in the context of controlling the microwave. For example, you can hit the button and just say “stop,” and it’ll stop the microwave. (How this is more efficient than just hitting the stop button is unclear.)

The fun feature is the popcorn, though. When you set it up for the first time, you’ll have an option to sign up for a subscription to buy microwave popcorn from Amazon. Then, as you pop it, Alexa will keep track of how many times you have said, “Alexa, make popcorn,” and it’ll reorder automatically when you’re running low. There’s also a popcorn button on the device.

Is all this worth $59.99? Sure, it’s a pretty dead-ahead 700W microwave after all. It’s black and boxy and simple. I don’t have a lot more to tell you about the hardware. It has a rotating tray on the inside. There are vents and a metal enclosure. It ships on November 14th.

The point isn’t to wow you, though. The point is for Amazon to wow gadget makers with how simple, secure, and easy it is to integrate its Alexa Connection Kit. That little module includes Amazon’s new Real Time OS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and so on. The idea is that it’s a more plug-and-play solution for making more things talk to Alexa. It’s a smart move for Amazon, and it’s increasing its lead as the de-facto hub of gadgets in your house.