Amazon’s Alexa-powered smart glasses project is doomed

After several gadget misfires, Amazon has landed a well-deserved hit with its Alexa-driven Echo. I have two now, in fact, and they have quickly become the most popular devices in our home. My only frustration is that I wish I could connect more objects to them and extend the voice-activated magic.

But if there’s one thing that I, and probably 99.99999 percent of consumers on the planet don’t want, it is some kind of connected eye glasses to hook into Alexa. In fact, I can safely say that no one really wants smart glasses no matter who the brand is behind them.

This is why it’s a bit baffling to read in a report this morning from the Financial Times that Amazon is working on such a device, which would be a pair of glasses with a microphone and bone-conducting audio that lets you hear Alexa without an earbud.

This is a terrible idea.

According to the FT, Amazon seems to have hired much of the former Google Glass team, which appears to have not learned the fundamental lesson of that product’s failure. Namely: There is no consumer interest in or demand for smart glasses.

For people who don’t need corrective lenses, there’s no desire to wear a pair of non-corrective glasses just because they have some digital connectivity and cameras. That’s true of Glass and of Snap’s Spectacles. Even many people with poor eyesight choose contact lenses because they don’t want to place something over their face. And for those of us who do wear glasses, well, I’m in no rush to go out and buy a new pair with real lenses because I could use them to interface with Alexa.

The smart glasses niche seems to belong to a niche of a niche of a niche of engineers who think it’s a swell idea. Being able to sell them in the checkout aisle at Whole Foods isn’t going to change the fact that consumers have close to zero interest in the form factor.

In this case, it seems Amazon would have much more luck following Apple’s lead and making something for the wrist. That could be a smartwatch, or a more basic fitness band with a microphone and some health-tracking features. Amazon could compliment the gadget with its own wireless earbuds. Both of these are products that, while still small in terms of market size, have at least demonstrated the existence of a market and some degree of consumer interest.

The Amazon Fire Watch. The Amazon FireBuds. These would make more sense. Perhaps Amazon’s Lab 126 is hard at work on these as well.

But when it comes to smart glasses, apparently the company’s product vision remains, well, blurry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *