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Two affordable, heart rate-enabled smartwatches and a hackable, 3G wearable for phone-free running with GPS, music, and Amazon Alexa.
Two affordable, heart rate-enabled smartwatches and a hackable, 3G wearable for phone-free running with GPS, music, and Amazon Alexa.
66,673 backers pledged $12,779,843 to help bring this project to life.

Amazon Alexa + Pebble Core: Now We're Talking

Posted by Joseph Kristoffer (Collaborator)
112 likes

Life is Full of Questions

“Who directed The Princess Bride?”

“Did I leave the bedroom lights on?”

“How many kilometers are in a mile?”

“When is the next Warriors game?”

“Is Game of Thrones a good TV show?”

Today, with assistance from Amazon Alexa, Pebble Core has the answers. Just Ask!

Alexa from the Comfort of Core

Pebble Core will be the first fully-independent 3G wearable with Amazon Alexa.
Pebble Core will be the first fully-independent 3G wearable with Amazon Alexa.

We’ve been fans of Amazon Alexa’s powerful cloud-based voice service since seeing it in action in 2014. The first Alexa-enabled device, Amazon Echo, made everyday tasks a breeze with simple voice commands from the comfort of our homes and offices. Amazon Alexa has only gotten smarter and more useful with time—an approach we embrace with our own products.

For the first time ever, Amazon Alexa brings its magic to Pebble. Pebble Core Kickstarter backers will be the first to experience Amazon Alexa on-the-go from a fully-independent, 3G-connected wearable. Awesome, right?

Pebble Core: It’s Got Skills

Alexa-enabled devices feature an ever-growing arsenal of delightful, voice-powered skills. With Amazon Alexa, Pebble Core can:

  • Play songs, artists, and playlists from Amazon Prime Music, iHeartRadio, and more. 
  • Brief you with news headlines from USA Today, The Washington Post, or The Huffington Post.
  • Review your Pebble Health summary for the day, including heart rate, step count, and calories burned.
  • Order pizzas for the gang on game day.
  • Shop for gifts and necessities on Amazon.
  • Get weather and traffic updates.
  • Set a timer for a set of side planks.
  • Control smart home devices like lights, thermostats, locks, and more.
  • Tell you a joke.
  • Answer almost any question you can think of—from the nutritional information of certain foods to movie facts on IMDB.

 

Amazon Alexa integration is a prime example of what’s possible with Pebble Core’s open and hackable platform. As Alexa develops new skills, Pebble Core will as well.

Core backers are already excited to run phone-free with music, GPS, 3G+WiFi connectivity, and Emergency SOS in a lightweight, go-anywhere package. Our developer community can’t wait, either. They’re busy dreaming up all the cool ways a Pebble-sized magic button can deliver new experiences we’ll be enjoying in the future (more news on that front to come).

The Road to Rewards: Exploring Frontiers with Special Projects

There’s one question Alexa can't answer that we’re more than happy to tackle:

“How did personal assistants, a small R&D team, and artificial intelligence tie together to bring Amazon Alexa’s magic to Pebble Core?”

For this second installment of The Road to Rewards, let’s meet the people and ideas behind Pebble Special Projects.

Photo by Backchannel on Medium.
Photo by Backchannel on Medium.

 

Up until now, Pebble has been known for smartwatches. We put them on the map with our original project in 2012, and continue to explore how technology can make something we’re all familiar wearing (a watch) smarter, more useful, and newly delightful.

Ever since first prototyping my original concept of a watch that could show your text messages at a glance, Pebble has been obsessed with wearable technology. This spirit of exploration and experimentation continues on throughout our team, every day.

Last summer, we assembled a small group to work undercover. Their mission: explore ideas and concepts that would translate seamlessly into a future wearable device. Their first endeavor, dubbed “Project at No. 26,” looked at how voice—coupled with the Pebble platform—could deliver a wearable personal assistant.

Concierge Takes Shape

The project started small, combining the existing Pebble voice system introduced in Pebble Time with a crew of real people to interpret and perform the actions requested by our test subjects.

The early stages of Concierge didn’t need fancy machine learning and natural language translation software. We were more focused on optimizing the interactions between a Pebble user and the Concierge system, making them as accurate as possible. We wanted to paint a clear picture of how to best deliver a virtual assistant experience on a wearable. The goal was to build something that "just worked" before adding code to parts of the Concierge process where automation made sense.

The Special Projects team built the entire Concierge system from the ground-up. From the big jobs—like a back-end dashboard for managing requests and agents' workflows—to grunt work like finding the perfect avocado, the Special Projects crew was on call.

The first ever Concierge request? An avocado from Whole Foods.
The first ever Concierge request? An avocado from Whole Foods.

 

As Concierge evolved, the number of beta testers expanded beyond the walls of Pebble HQ to a wide range of busy people who had more stuff to do in a day than they had time to do it. Concierge was willing to do almost anything (legal) under the sun for our testers, from putting furniture up for sale on Craigslist to finding the closest animal rescue for an injured bird found on the beach.

From Lessons Learned to Alexa-Enabled

In many ways, the insight our Special Projects team gained from exploring Concierge informed much about our decision to integrate Pebble Core with Amazon Alexa.

  • Comprehension gets us hooked. The people who used Concierge absolutely loved it. The human layers we placed on top of the system maximized understanding of task requests, and provided a service that really worked. It was a sad day for Concierge power users when we announced that the experiment was winding down. 
  • Speed keeps us coming back. We came to the conclusion that any future voice-powered assistant service on a wearable would also need to get back to you quickly. It might be a first world problem, but virtual assistants need to understand what you’re asking for and get back to you with a solution super-fast.

While developing Pebble Core, we saw in Amazon Alexa a powerful service that is doing a great job of balancing the comprehension vs. speed divide. It’s a voice-powered platform that works great out of the box and keeps getting smarter and more useful with a combination of in-house updates and a developer community adding new skills. Amazon Alexa aligns well with Pebble’s own philosophy and—thanks to the insights and hard work from our Special Projects Team—making the call to integrate Alexa with Pebble Core was an easy one.

For more about the story behind Pebble Concierge, the amazing people behind our Special Projects Team, and their work’s influence on Pebble Core’s Amazon Alexa integration, check out the latest installment of Steven Levy’s Adventures of Pebble series on Medium.

Meet the Team in SF!

See you Wed, 15 June @ 6:00 PM in SF!
See you Wed, 15 June @ 6:00 PM in SF!

 

Do you love wearable tech, drinks, tacos, and cake? Will you be in the Bay Area on Wednesday, June 15th @ 6:00 PM? Then join us for a very special Pebble SF Meetup! It's a great chance to meet the team in person, make new friends, and check out all that we've been working on for this Kickstarter project and beyond.

RSVP on Meetup »

Project Odds and Ends

Until next time,

Eric + Team Pebble

PS (answers to the questions up top): Rob Reiner, hopefully not, 1.60934, June 5th @ 5PM PT, and Duh.

Patrick Huang, Jesse, and 110 more people like this update.

Comments

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    1. Sven Rütz on

      Hey there. I don't know if my comment vanishes here being one of many but maybe someone reads it.

      You should really Team up with mycroft in voice control: https://mycroft.ai

      They were on kickstarter too and created a cool voice controlled PA. When I read you want to use Alexa, 1st thing in mind was "hey they should learn about mycroft" ... I would love to see mycroft on pebble not only to not have another advertising personalization source for a huge company but also for it's extensability and free and open design.

      Give it a shot and do not stick with Alexa only ;)

    2. Missing avatar

      Adam on

      I'm a little late with this question, but can Amazon (or Google) music be downloaded to the Core, and then played "offline"? (and controlled with phone or a Core-compatible Pebble watch)

    3. Hei Liebrecht on

      So that makes Pebble Core also compatible with Google Home?

    4. Missing avatar

      bzd on

      The video shows LEDs in the core (six in the middle and one in the corner. Are these actually in the core, or are they a bit of marketing glitz/imagination?

    5. Joseph Kristoffer Collaborator on

      @Beefki:

      Thanks for checking in. Just updated the FAQ to be as clear as can be about how Amazon Alexa on Pebble Core. There is nothing to remove. Like any third-party app, you have to install Alexa onto your Core to enjoy its voice services. Amazon Alexa is simply an added layer of features that is leveraging the existing voice capabilities and firmware-level infrastructure we're building into Core: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/597507018/pebble-2-time-2-and-core-an-entirely-new-3g-ultra#project_faq_174412

    6. Jeff McLean on

      @Beefki just my thoughts as I am no expert but the Core is going to need a pebble time watch or the pebble app (android/ios) to work the apps you use they have to be installed from something. I doubt it will just be a standard install on the core itself. The hardware on the device might be alexa compatible but there has to be more to it than just having that on the device.

    7. Missing avatar

      Beefki on

      I'm going to keep asking until I get an answer. Can it be removed completely?

      "You don't have to authenticate" is not an answer to my question. My question is not "Do I have to use Alexa" which is a question that answers.

      So I'll be very specific; I do not want Alexa on my Core at all (or any wearable), do I have the power to remove it? If yes, then carry on. If no, then your marketing of the Core as a hackable device is false advertising.

      I don't believe this should be installed by default

    8. Simon Karlskov on

      Us only means it's a non existing feature for anybody outside The US.. Hope the next update is something usable �

    9. Missing avatar

      Malcolm on

      I'd also like to see this integrated on pebble time 2!

    10. georgemoe on

      Was really hoping this was an announcement of a dual card slot. Need more storage. Glad for those of you that will enjoy Alexa.

    11. Vince on

      Want it on the watch...

    12. Missing avatar

      Matthew Welch on

      I may be one of the oddballs, but I'm actually a little disappointed with the Alexa announcement. I have an Echo and while I love it, when it comes to the "answering questions" aspect, Google Now is sooooo much better that there's really no comparison. Alexa may be able to answer 2/10 questiosn I pose whereas Google Now easily does 8/10, but I get it. Alexa is geared towards a "no screen" interface and Google Now isn't.

    13. Sean DeArras
      Superbacker
      on

      I wish I could be excited about this, but since you all decided to leave Verizon and Sprint out of the picture... That's most of the US market.

    14. Missing avatar

      Jerry Steinhauer on

      Will those who don't want to use Alexa or are uncomfortable with it be able to turn it off?

    15. Paul on

      So to answer the question directly - Alexa is US English only!

    16. Drew Beller on

      Are there plans to add Alexa support to the Time 2?

    17. Nathanael Siering on

      Thinking of withdrawing my pledge. Amazon. You must be kidding.

    18. Martin on

      I'm assuming this doesn't affect the possibility to play Spotify?

    19. andrerobot on

      Fanta Grape SUCKS!

    20. Joseph Kristoffer Collaborator on

      Great question, @ Julius Ter Pelkwijk. Updated the FAQ just now to answer it.

      It's getting a little late here in California, so gonna call it a night. Take care, everyone!

    21. Julius Ter Pelkwijk
      Superbacker
      on

      Joseph, still the biggest question is not answered: Will it work outside the USA?

    22. Joseph Kristoffer Collaborator on

      Hi everyone,

      Thanks as always for all the questions, comments, and feedback—keep them coming!

      We've updated the FAQs (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/597507018/pebble-2-time-2-and-core-an-entirely-new-3g-ultra/description#project_faq_173697) with new answers. Check them out and let us know what else you'd like to see in that section to clarify things you're not seeing on the main campaign page.

      Update #3 is out (http://pbl.io/ks3u03)! Dive into the details about Amazon Alexa on Pebble Core and get to know more about our Special Projects Team.

      For those curious about Amazon Alexa on Pebble watches: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/597507018/pebble-2-time-2-and-core-an-entirely-new-3g-ultra#project_faq_174397

      For those asking about how your voice data is secured and shares with Amazon to make Alexa's services work: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/597507018/pebble-2-time-2-and-core-an-entirely-new-3g-ultra#project_faq_174412

      Tons more answers to popular questions we've been receiving can be found in the FAQ. Keep checking there for more!

    23. Julius Ter Pelkwijk
      Superbacker
      on

      Secondly, the Alexa feature is only available if you have 3G/wifi. So, I don't see the big "hurray" feature in the core other than a great device for running...

    24. Simon Karlskov on

      As everybody else I'm wondering if this is a US only feature? If it's like apple and Microsoft who doesn't believe anybody else can speak English..?

    25. Wilson Loo Kok Wee on

      Why can't Amazon Alexa be integrated as part of Pebble 2 and Time 2? The reply can then be displayed on the screen itself. This would make Pebble Time more useful and closer to the full functionality of a very smartwatch.

    26. Grant on

      Sounds great. But will it ever work outside the good old USA??

    27. Guy Raz on

      Will I have the same Alexa functionality and voice commands with Pebble 2?

    28. Drew Betke on

      What about Alexa and other countries??? Can Alexa control Spotify??

    29. Le Giang Anh on

      How about Alexa + Time 2?