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
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.
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.
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!
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.
Project Odds and Ends
- As of this writing, Pebble Core, Pebble 2, and Time 2 are the fourth most funded project on Kickstarter, with over $9.9 million pledged from more than 51,000 backers. Thank you so much—Pebblers rock! Keep spreading the word and sharing your stories.
- Remember to share the project (pebble.com/kickstarter) and tell people what you love and what you’re most excited for.
- Follow us and keep in touch on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Snapchat, and our new Pebble Forum.
- If you're currently a project backer, you can submit your email here to pause marketing messages from us while the Kickstarter campaign is live.
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.