Amazon could be working on new augmented reality smart home devices aimed at consumers, according to job listings for several new roles.
AR and VR, collectively known as XR or 'extended reality,' is the next big thing in tech, with Facebook/Meta betting big on it and Apple heavily rumored to be building its own Apple mixed reality headset. Now it appears Amazon could be joining that gang in the near future.
Protocol spotted the job listings, which include job descriptions for a software engineer (now removed) and a “Sr. Technical Program Manager, New Products - XR”. The latter appears to have been edited to remove any mentions of XR, but according to Protocol, the original listing specified that the Program Manager will “develop an advanced XR research concept into a magical and useful new-to-world consumer product.”
The listing, and another for Sr. Product Manager, also asks for “experience building deeply technical products, e.g., AI/ML, robotics, games.” The software engineer listing, meanwhile, described the job as “conceiving and developing key software and architecture for a new-to-world smart-home product” as part of a “new cross-functional team.”
XR is an all-encompassing term for any kind of 'reality' product — be it virtual, augmented, mixed or something else entirely. The listing information specifically mentioned AR by name, suggesting that’s the primary purpose of this incoming device.
However, it doesn’t discount the possibility that Amazon is working on a mixed reality headset. Apple's rumored VR headset will reportedly also have see-through AR, and it would make sense for other companies to try something similar.
Amazon has dabbled in glasses before, having released two generations of the Alexa-powered Echo Frames. These have built-in speakers, touch controls and support for digital assistants, so it wouldn't be surprising if Amazon wanted to enhance them with AR in the near future.
Amazon also has a large smart home presence, of course, and linking a pair of AR glasses into its own ecosystem (Echosystem?) could have some advantages. Someone at the door? AR could show you a live feed without needing to use an Echo Show or the Ring app. Likewise, you could see information about audio coming from your Echo speaker, or any number of other things going on in your home.
Considering Amazon has come up with some really weird products in recent years, including the Alexa-powered Smart Oven and the Astro home robot, AR glasses don’t seem that outlandish by comparison.
Either way, the AR space is clearly competitive right now. Apple Glasses have been rumored for some time, and Apple’s ability to dominate whatever markets it enters is going to make life difficult for other AR hopefuls. Facebook/Meta is also investing heavily in AR, with Mark Zuckerberg reportedly hoping to free the company from Google and Apple ecosystems in the process.
Then you have Google, which is taking another stab at AR after the lukewarm reception to Google Glass, plus Snapchat’s AR glasses, and headset makers like Magic Leap. We'll watch with interest to see whether Amazon's new device makes it to production — and whether it ends up being as successful as the Echo or as big a disaster as the Fire Phone.