"Alexa, turn the wall on."
Saying that sentence out loud while alone at home might have made you seem like a crazy person just a few years ago, but times have changed. These days, voice-activated smart home controls are more popular than ever, and it's largely thanks to the meteoric rise of the Amazon Echo smart speaker, and of Alexa, the voice-activated AI assistant housed inside.
More and more gadgets and services are continuing to climb aboard Alexa's bandwagon (we saw dozens of new additions at CES alone). One of the latest is Nanoleaf, a smart lighting startup that's probably best known at this point for its triangular, color-changing "Aurora" LED wall panels. With the new Alexa controls, you'll be able to ask Alexa to turn those panels on and off or dim them up and down, or tell her to turn on a preconfigured lighting scene -- something like, "Alexa, turn on party mode," for instance.
Something that's especially noteworthy here is that Nanoleaf's smart lighting products already offered voice controls through Siri, thanks to the fact that they support Apple HomeKit, the set of smart home standards programmed into iPhones and iPads. Adding in Alexa support gives Nanoleaf's customers two high-profile means of turning their lights on and off using voice commands. It also positions Nanoleaf nicely for shoppers who might be interested in voice control, but unsure of which assistant should anchor their smart home setup.
Those Alexa controls extend to both the Nanoleaf Aurora wall panels and the unique-looking Nanoleaf Ivy smart bulbs. Those Ivy bulbs don't change colors like the Aurora panels do, but they offer an eye-catching, 3D-printed jigsaw-assembly that puts the light-emitting diodes on the outside. Like the Aurora panels, they launched with Siri support, but now offer Alexa controls as well.
To use the new Alexa controls, you'll need to enable the Nanoleaf skill in the Alexa app. Once you do, just ask Alexa to "discover new devices." After a quick scan, she'll add all of your Nanoleaf lights to her list of supported devices, and you'll be able to control them using whatever names you gave them in the Nanoleaf app.
One caveat, though: for now, the Alexa skill is up and running in the US only. Support for the UK is still pending, though my source at Nanoleaf tells me that it should be available within the next two weeks.
Later this year, Nanoleaf plans to launch a new music sync mode for Aurora, along with new shapes and sizes for the panels themselves. A company spokesperson tells me that support for the online automation service IFTTT is coming by the end of March, too.
The nine-panel Nanoleaf Aurora starter kit is available online and at Best Buy for $200 (Nanoleaf ships its products internationally -- that price comes out to about £160 in the UK). The two-bulb Nanoleaf Ivy Starter Kit costs $99 (about £80).
Want to learn more about what works with what in the smart home? Check out our handy compatibility tracker for a platform-by-platform breakdown.
For connected home buying advice, look no further than our running list of the best-reviewed smart home gadgets.