E-Commerce Innovations in the Mix at Consumer Tech Conference

Xconomy National — 

Alexa is now mobile.

Seattle-based e-commerce giant Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) is expected to unveil its first augmented-reality glasses to pair with Alexa, its digital assistant, at the Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, in Las Vegas this week.

The glasses were developed for Amazon by Vuzix, a Rochester, NY -based wearable tech company, and can communicate with Alexa and display information in the wearer’s field of view. Unlike Google’s Glass, which had a small camera on top of a lens, Vuzix’s glasses are designed to resemble typical eyewear, according to media reports. They are expected to sell for $1,000.

The Alexa-enabled wearable is just one of the many products vendors will showcase at the annual consumer tech gathering this week. CES is expected to draw more than 170,000 attendees, as some 4,000 exhibitors showcase their wares over the equivalent of nearly 50 football fields, according to the Associated Press. Journalists were able to get previews of some of the products that will be on display starting Sunday, though exhibitors won’t take to the conference floor until Tuesday.

The glasses connect via Bluetooth to a smartphone that does not need to be in-hand, but nearby, like in a bag. A user could summon information such as a map or movie showtimes onto the glasses via a voice command. The wearable devices add to Amazon’s stable of “smart home” and digital assistant products. Among them are a series of its Echo speakers, including an entry-level option (Echo Dot), a portable speaker (Echo Tap), and Echo Look, a style assistant that can take 360-degree selfies of an outfit.

The Vuzix partnership is part of an Amazon program that allows third-party manufacturers to integrate their hardware with Alexa products, according to Bloomberg. For example, in October, speaker manufacturer Sonos announced a smart device that controls music playback on Alexa. And this March, Kohler will begin selling its Verdera Voice Lighted Mirror, which will be connected to Alexa. Starting at $999, the mirror will be connected to Alexa to control lights with your voice or update you on the latest news as you get dressed in the morning, according to media reports.

The Consumer Technology Association, which hosts CES, predicts that sales of voice-controlled speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home will hit 44 million this year, an increase of 60 percent over 2017 sales. The group said sales of the devices increased 279 percent from 2016 to 2017. In addition to Amazon’s products, Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL) sells its Home system and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) is expected to come out with its own speaker this year, according to media reports.

How technology is upending the world of retail is a theme of discussion at CES this year with panel discussions on topics such as virtual reality, data analytics, and how to use such technology to provide customers with personalized recommendations that would entice them to shop more.

However, not everything that is debuting at CES this week is new. Given the trend of bringing back pop culture of the 1990s—remakes of TV series “Will & Grace” and “Rosanne,” fashion replays like high-waisted jeans and choker necklaces—the tech world seems to want to get in on the nostalgia. TechCrunch reports that Indiegogo crowdfunders have already committed $1.2 million—nearly 300 percent of its initial goal—to support a QWERTY-keyboard PDA called the Gemini, similar to the ones some of us used to carry around before Y2K.

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