We’ve all been there. You’ve got a grass stain on your linen pants or you have a new cashmere sweater and you have no idea which wash cycle to use to get it clean. You could Google it, or call your mom, or — if you buy the new $1,299 GE Profile Top Load 900 series washing machine — you can ask Alexa to do it for you. Yes, GE Appliances has built Amazon’s voice assistant into its latest washer. Now your washing machine can play some music, tell you a joke, and wash your clothes.
This is the first washing machine with Alexa built-in, and GE Appliances says it’s responding to consumer demand for a “more personalized and smarter experience.” The top loading washer has a speaker and microphone on board so you can talk to and hear from the assistant. The 900 Series includes a washer and dryer, but only the washer has the Alexa tech. However, the dryer is smart too, linking to the washing machine to learn which setting to dry the incoming load on.
I saw a demo of the new machine in action, and this is more useful than some smart appliance Alexa Skills, which can feel like they’ve been slapped on just for name recognition. With the GE Profile you can tell Alexa to wash cotton, wash underwear, or remove a pen ink stain and then the assistant responds confirming it's “optimizing the washer” to your request. It uses GE’s laundry database to automatically set the washer and dryer for the specific fabrics or stain to remove. You do have to load the washer and hit start, but you don’t have to pour in the detergent — a smart dispense system can hold an entire 50-ounce bottle of detergent.
This does take out some of the guesswork from doing your laundry. “You no longer have to know what setting washes grass stains or how to care for silk… just ask Alexa and the washer and dryer will do the rest,” said Michael Mattingly of GE Appliances.
On-device voice control is increasingly becoming a feature in the smart home. Sonos just launched its own voice assistant for its smart speakers and robot vacuum maker Ecovacs has one on its latest model. It provides a more direct way to interact with the machines, and in GE Appliance’s case, provides hands-free control of the washer you can’t get elsewhere.
The washer needs to connect to Wi-Fi through GE’s SmartHQ app to set up the Alexa connection. The app also allows for remote control of the machine and can send you alerts about the status of your laundry.
The good news is you don’t have to buy this very expensive washer to get this feature if it's something you’re excited about. Mattingly says that the Laundry Assistant skill for Alexa will work with any GE washer in the future, though you’ll need a standalone Echo smart speaker to send commands to washers without Alexa built in.