As rumored, Amazon today announced its own brand of microwave with Alexa voice control built right in. The AmazonBasics Microwave will cost a measly $60 and shows how the company will use voice to better understand customers (and sell to them), as well as stave off smart assistant competitors from encroaching on the kitchen.
The microwave is on the small end, with 0.7 cubic foot cavity, has only 700 Watts of power, and features an Alexa logo button on the touchpad. I was a bit of a negative Nancy when I heard about an Alexa-powered microwave, but am ready to eat a bit of crow if this works as promised. From the press announcement:
With AmazonBasics Microwave, ask Alexa to reheat, defrost, or microwave for your desired cook time and power level. Plus, use a variety of quick-cook voice presets such as, “Alexa, microwave two potatoes” or “Alexa, reheat a cup of coffee” and the AmazonBasics Microwave takes care of the rest. Since Alexa is always getting smarter, new quick-cook voice presets will be added regularly.
What it also does is have users voluntarily tell Amazon what food they are microwaving, when they microwave and how often. As pre-sets are added, Amazon will have an even more granular understanding of what we are cooking, and will most likely notify users of specials and sales happening at Amazon Fresh or a Whole Foods nearby.
The Amazon microwave seems to stick it a little to the recently released GE Alexa Microwave with scan-to-cook technology. Depending on the pre-sets that are added, it removes the scan step (which requires using your phone) and makes cooking that much faster. It also allows for pre-set cooking of items that don’t have barcodes (see: potato).
The Amazon microwave also connects with a nearby Alexa for other voice commands. Press the Alexa button on the microwave and a paired Echo device wakes up to listen for a command like “two minutes and thirty seconds on medium” and the microwave will do just that (no need to say “Alexa” or “microwave”). While I haven’t seen it in action, this seems like more work than pressing 2, 3, 0, especially given the number of times Alexa mishears me.
There is also Dash Replenishment built into the Amazon Microwave that will re-order, ummmm, popcorn, when you… run out of popcorn. And that’s it for now. I guess. Huh. OK. To be fair, that re-order functionality will assuredly get more robust and add more microwaveable items to be replenished. But still, it seems like an add-on as we’ll already be telling the microwave what we are cooking. And if we order a four pack of Hot Pockets from Amazon, and we cook three of them, it will know I need more. Ideally.
As the company states in the press release, its new microwave is also a way for Amazon to show how other appliance makers can use the new Amazon Connect Kit to create smart devices. By getting appliance manufactures on to the Alexa platform, Amazon can better box out rival Google in the kitchen and slurp up all that data for itself.
In the end, the Amazon Microwave is a small device that actually could have big implications for the kitchen. We’ll get one in November and tell you how it works in real life.