Amazon's new Build It program looks to offer a fresh take on the crowdfunding industry led by Kickstarter and Indiegogo — with an Alexa cuckoo clock one if its first products.
Where other crowdfunding platforms work by inviting customers to invest in proposed products by pre-ordering them, with no certainty that they will ship, Amazon is going things a little differently, offering a more financially robust approach.
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Here, Amazon pitches its own prototype devices and customers are invited to pre-order the ones they like. Only if enough pre-orders are received will Amazon commit to building the product, which will then be sent out to buyers who are then billed for their order.
If the product doesn't receive enough pre-orders, then the project is scrapped and the orders are cancelled with no money changing hands. That way, customers don't face the risk of being left out of pocket if a company fails to deliver on their promise, and Amazon's enormous cash pile should ensure successful products are built quickly and to a suitable standard.
Cuckoo clock and more
The first three products to appear on the Build It platform are devices that veer off traditional Alexa models. The first is a wall-mounted cuckoo clock that works with Alexa. Like Amazon's more traditional Alexa wall clock, this model can be configured with timers and alarms by speaking to the voice assistant of a nearby Echo speaker or display. The face contains 60 LEDs to show the progress of your timers, and there are several alarm sounds to choose from.
The $80 clock always shows the right time as it is connected to the internet and the rest of your Alexa smart home system. Powered by four C batteries or via a USB-C port (cable and plug not included), the clock measures 15.7 inches tall and 7.3 inches wide, and the mechanical pendulum can be removed if you don't want it.
Next up for Amazon's experimental products is a $35 digital kitchen scale. Looking much like every other digital scale sold on Amazon, this one connects to Alexa, which can then provide the nutritional information of whatever food you weigh. For example, place some blueberries on the scale and ask Alexa how much sugar is in them, and the assistant will tell you.
To be clear, the scale itself doesn't work as an Alexa speaker. You need to have an Alexa speaker or display within earshot to speak to about the nutritional value of the food you are weighing – for example, you might have an Echo Dot or an Echo Show on the kitchen counter, as shown above. The scale measures 8.3 inches by 6.3 inches and is made from 3mm-thick tempered glass. It is powered by a pair of AA batteries.
The third and final product to launch the Amazon Build It platform is a $90 sticky note printer. A simple black box designed to sit on your desk, the printer creates yellow sticky-back notes like shopping lists and to-do lists. This is a thermal printer that works without ink or toner, so only ever needs to be refilled with compatible paper.
The documents it prints are created by speaking to Alexa, or by typing them out in the Alexa smartphone app. You then ask the assistant to print them out, and they'll be sent to the printer.
We can see this being useful for shopping lists, but when the list likely already exists within the Alexa smartphone app, we feel the printed note might be superfluous for many Alexa users. Amazon says that, if the printer gets built, it will come with a roll of yellow sticky paper roll, and refills will be available to purchase in blue, pink, white and yellow.
As well as notes and lists, Alexa can be asked to print out recipes and puzzles too. The printer is 4.7 inches wide, 3.2 inches tall and comes with a power cable.
Must reach order goal
Although Amazon isn't saying how many pre-orders are required for each product to enter production, on a percentage basis the note printer is currently the most popular. At the time of writing, a couple of hours after the Build It program was announced, the printer has received five percent of its pre-order goal, compared to three percent for the clock and two percent for the scale.
All three have until March 19 to reach their goal. If they do not, then Amazon will not build them and instead move onto something else.
Smart Nutrition Scale | Works with Alexa | A Day 1 Editions concept