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Amazon’s plan to get further into your kitchen and sell you more stuff

The first hardware device that works with Amazon's cloud-based virtual assistant "Alexa" became available Thursday. The Triby smart speaker — made by French start-up Invoxia — is a magnetic portable voice-enabled speaker designed for the kitchen that does everything Amazon's Echo speaker does, and more.

Thanks to Alexa, the Echo can play music, read the news, give the weather forecast, order a pizza or an Uber and talk to Fitbit set timers and alarms, among other things.

The Triby speaker can also be connected to a smartphone for calls and messaging — it has a small display — and has sensors for measuring temperature and humidity. Invoxia plans to introduce new features to take advantage of those sensors in the future. It is those additional features, as well as the company's high-quality speaker, that the makers hope will entice users to spend $199 for the the product, $20 more than the Echo smart speaker.

Invoxia’s Triby speaker, a Smart speaker that works with Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant
Source: Invoxia
Invoxia’s Triby speaker, a Smart speaker that works with Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant

It may seem counterintuitive for Amazon to open up its platform to developers to create products that compete with its own, but it's all part of the company's strategy to reach consumers wherever they are to sell them more stuff through services such as Amazon Dash and Amazon Fresh, said Invoxia managing director Sebastien de la Bastie.

"The purpose of Triby is to make life in the kitchen easier by delivering a number of services. That is what we do, and that is what Amazon liked about us," he said.

Amazon opened up its Alexa Voice Service to developers looking to add voice-powered capabilities to devices with microphones and speakers last June. At the same time, it launched the $100 million Alexa Fund to support early-stage prerevenue companies looking to incorporate the technology.

So far, the fund has invested in 12 start-ups across a variety of verticals. For example, Sutro is creating a connected pool monitor to automate water testing and can ship chemicals when needed, directly to the consumer or through Amazon's Dash Replenishment Service. At the other end of the spectrum, big public companies including Samsung and Ford will bring Alexa to connected refrigerators or cars.

"They want to be the voice-control technology for the home," said NextMarket Insights analyst Michael Wolf. "Everyone is starting to look at voice control and voice interaction as the next generation interface for the home."

As voice recognition and artificial intelligence technology have advanced, a smartphone app or wearable device is no longer the best way to access content from the web, said de la Bastie. This is particularly true in the home where voice is becoming the most natural interface and people want to give their devices a break, he said.

"That's the underlying change of paradigm which is happening," he said.

Alphabet's OK Google, Apple's Siri and Facebook's M are all potential competitors to Amazon's Alexa. Invoxia is interested in working with all of them, said de la Bastie.