Amazon’s latest bit of Alexa-enabled hardware is a bit of a curveball: it’s a smart soap dispenser for the bathroom.
Currently only available in the US, with a launch date of 4 August listed, the smart soap dispenser is likely a response to the ongoing Coronavirus crisis. Early on in the pandemic, frequent hand washing was extolled as an important defence against the spread of Covid-19, although the advice has since shifted more to a focus on ventilation given the airborne nature of the virus.
Nonetheless, hand washing remains important for all kinds of reasons, and the smart soap dispenser will help people ensure they scrub for the recommended 20 seconds without needing to hum through ‘Happy Birthday’ twice. Instead, a ring of LEDs on top of the dispenser will light up as time passes, letting you know when you’ve cleaned enough.
Reassuringly, the device doesn’t have a speaker or microphone built in but it can connect to other Echo devices within a 30-foot radius to make this 20-second cleaning window more lively. Amazon says that you can make an Alexa routine where the Echo will play songs or crack jokes while you’re washing to make the time fly by that bit faster.
The device charges via microUSB, with a single charge said to provide up to three months’ worth of battery life. It will dispense a different amount of soap depending on how close your hand is to the nozzle, and each device can hold up to 12oz of liquid soap.
Amazon isn’t the first company to try and use tech to enforce good hand washing habits in the face of the pandemic. In watchOS 7, Apple introduced a hand washing detection system that would listen for bubbles and running water, and then initiate a 20-second countdown. Alexa rival Google Assistant, meanwhile, can sing a song about the merits of cleanliness while you wash your hands.
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The Smart Soap Dispenser costs $54.99 in the United States, which is around £40. We’ve reached out to Amazon to ask if it’ll ever reach this side of the Atlantic, and will update this piece when we hear either way.