Amazon’s Alexa-enabled microwave hands-on: it cooks, but does not speakSeptember 20, 2018
Well, I just heated up a mug of water in a microwave. It got hot. The difference, of course, is that this is the new AmazonBasics Microwave, which works with Alexa. That “works with Alexa” phrasing and the fact that this isn’t the “Echo Microwave” should tell you that this thing doesn’t have any microphones on it, nor any speaker (beyond one that can beep). Instead, it’s a $59.99 device meant to showcase Amazon’s new system for companies to make their regular gadgets into smart gadgets.
The way the Alexa integration works is pretty clever. When you set it up, it will get paired up with your Alexa system as “the microwave,” and then you can command Alexa to, you know, cook stuff. There are very few buttons on the microwave itself, because all the presets for various food types have been stored in Amazon’s cloud instead.
There is an Alexa button on the microwave, and it does two things. First, it turns on the microphone on one of your Echo speakers, so you don’t have to use the “Alexa” wake word. Second — and more importantly — it sends a signal that whatever you’re about to say will be in the context of controlling the microwave. So you can hit the button and just say “Stop” and it’ll stop the microwave (how this is more efficient than just hitting the stop button is unclear).
The fun feature is the popcorn, though. When you set up for the first time, you’ll have an option to sign up for a subscription to microwave popcorn. Then, as you pop it, Alexa will keep track of how many times you have said “Alexa, make popcorn” and re-order automatically when you’re running low. Also, there’s a popcorn button on the device itself.
Is all this worth $59.99? Sure, it’s a pretty dead-ahead 700W microwave after all. It’s black and boxy and simple. I don’t have a lot more to tell you about the hardware. It has a rotating tray on the inside. There’s vents and a metal enclosure. It ships on November 14th.
The point isn’t to wow you, though. The point for Amazon is to wow gadget makers with how simple, secure, and easy it is to integrate its Alexa Connection Kit. That little module includes Amazon’s new Real Time OS, Bluetooth, Wi-fi, and so on. The idea is that it’s a more plug-and-play solution for making more things talk to Alexa. It’s a smart move for Amazon, increasing its lead as the de-facto hub of gadgets in your house.