Qualcomm just brought Amazon Alexa one step closer to living in your ears

It is Qualcomm’s annual 4G/5G Summit in Hong Kong this week and one of the standout announcements concerns Amazon’s excellent Alexa virtual assistant.

Qualcomm has unveiled a reference design for a pair of wireless earbuds that’ll, with the push of a button on the cord, activate Amazon Alexa. You’ll then be able to directly interact with the assistant through the buds.

Instead of the earbuds doing the work, all the heavy lifting is taken care of by the Alexa app installed on your Android phone and the Amazon Mobile Accessory protocol (AMA). The idea is that making the phone do the processing will not only keep the cost down, but also improve battery life.

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This reference pair features Qualcomm’s cVc noise reduction tech for improving sound quality during a voice call, a 60mAh battery on each ear and Micro USB for charging. They’re not completely wireless buds, like the Apple AirPods, instead having a wire connecting the two buds together.

As is typical with Qualcomm’s reference products, this isn’t meant as a consumer item that’ll be sold in the mass-market. Instead, it’s there for manufacturers to use as a base for further products. Qualcomm said that those building on top of this design will be able to add things like extra sensors and support for aptX audio.

Alexa might be a great assistant, but in our minds it’s better suited to the home. When it comes to conversational dialogue, general knowledge requests and notifications we are bigger fans of Google’s Assistant. And Google Assistant can already be initiated in headphones like the Google Pixel Buds.

Qualcomm didn’t give a predicted date when we might see Alexa-powered headphones hit the market, nor did it suggest how much they might retail for.

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