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Amazon's new Alexa Gadgets Toolkit lets Alexa have some toy-friendly fun

Robots that can lip sync Alexa's speech? Disco balls that sparkle whenever you say the wake word? Amazon's new software makes it possible.

Ry Crist/CNET

Amazon has already made a point of making it as easy as possible for developers to build their own Alexa devices. Now, the online megaretailer wants to do the same thing for devices that work with Alexa -- and it wants to teach those gadgets some fun new tricks aimed at taking them to the next level.

To do so, Amazon is launching the Alexa Gadgets Toolkit, a new set of software tools designed for third-party gadgets that connect with Amazon's Echo devices via Bluetooth. Developers who put the toolkit to work will be able to take advantage of four new features. Here's how Amazon describes them:

  • Wake word detection: Respond when the wake word is detected, such as a cuckoo clock that pops its head out whenever a customer says, "Alexa"
  • Speech: Sync movement to Alexa's text-to-speech, such as a robot that lip syncs to Alexa's reading of the local weather report 
  • Timers: Respond when a timer has expired, such as an outdoor gong that chimes when backyard playtime timer has concluded 
  • Alarms: Respond when an alarm has been triggered, such as a propeller that launches a dog toy each time an alarm has expired

The new features sound like a good fit for gee-whiz integrations from third-parties that make Alexa-friendly toys and novelty gadgets. (Remember that the first Alexa Bluetooth gadget was Amazon's own light-up Echo Buttons, introduced last year.) 

To that end, Amazon acknowledges an emphasis on partnering with kid-friendly developers, and says that names such as Hasbro and WowWee Group Limited are already on board. Same goes for Gemmy Industries, maker of the infamous Big Mouth Billy Bass talking trophy fish, which can already connect with Alexa to dance to whatever music you're listening to.

Smile-worthy tricks like that are probably the best blueprint for what to expect from the Alexa Gadgets Toolkit, at least for now. Moving forward, it's possible that clever developers might find even more creative uses for Amazon's software. Wake word detection and speech sync both seem like particularly intriguing new tools for developers to take advantage of -- I'd bet on Amazon's efforts bearing some pretty interesting fruit in the months ahead.

In the meantime, September isn't over yet -- and in the past two years, September has meant new Echo hardware from Amazon. Rumors of new Amazon devices are already flying fast, and the company launching fresh software might indicate that it's getting ready to show us some new stuff. Stay tuned.

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