Amazon is launching a new consumer outreach program it’s calling Build It. The idea is a safer spin on a familiar crowdfunding idea: if enough people preorder something, Amazon will produce it. And if not, it won’t. The company is starting with three Alexa-powered gadgets: a cuckoo clock, a thermal sticky note printer, and a smart scale that can provide details on the food you’re weighing via a separate Echo device.
All three “concepts” are going up for preorder today as part of Amazon’s program for creating experimental hardware. It has already made some devices it doesn’t consider mainstream yet — like the Echo Frames — under the Day 1 Editions branding. Built It is a subset, designed for gadgets that won’t even be released without proof of demand.
Where Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer the good vibes of supporting a startup (and the risk that goes along with that), Amazon’s take is simply to display a progress bar of preorders. Customers can cancel their preorder at any time or return the product should it end up being produced.
Amazon’s program is presumably designed to pick up the marketing benefits and hype that a product can get from a crowdfunding campaign. It may also be designed to seed the marketplace with more Alexa-powered gadget ideas. In any case, Amazon isn’t looking to “crowdfund” these gadgets, merely gauge customer interest.
When asked if Amazon planned to offer Built It campaigns to third-party companies in the future, a spokesperson wouldn’t comment. They also wouldn’t comment on what exactly the preorder goals would be. Rather than displaying a total dollar amount (as in crowdfunding) or even a total number of desired preorders, Build It campaigns will simply display a progress bar with a percentage next to it.
The three products Amazon is starting with all seem like fun gadgets that the company’s hardware division probably would have found a way to release even without the Build It program. All three feature different levels of Alexa integration.
The sticky note printer has a preorder price of $89.99. It can print out little reminders or puzzles based on voice commands to Alexa.
The nutrition scale has the usual LED display and buttons, but you can also ask Alexa to answer questions about the food that’s set on it. Amazon’s example, “Alexa, ask Smart Scale how much sugar is in these blueberries,” gives you an idea of what you might be able to do. Its preorder price is $34.99.
Finally, the cuckoo clock. It’s not Amazon’s first Alexa-powered wall clock, but it does offer a bunch of customizations. There are 60 LED bulbs, the cuckoo bird itself, and a removable pendulum. Its preorder price is $79.99.
In all three cases, you’ll note that the prices here are “preorder” prices. Part of Amazon’s pitch for Build It gadgets is they’ll be less expensive for customers who preorder. Each preorder run will last 30 days, and customers won’t be charged until the product actually ships. Amazon says if these three gadgets meet their goal, it’s tentatively aiming to release them this summer.