Amazon announced a new feature for its Alexa voice assistant: multi-room audio that synchronizes music playback across multiple Amazon Echo devices, with plans to add Sonos, Bose and other third-party speakers to the mix in the future.
The feature, which launches today, works with Amazon Music, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, and Pandora, according to the company. Spotify and SiriusXM support is coming soon. Users enable the feature by creating a group of two of more devices and naming the group, then telling Alexa to play music on whatever the group is named. That’s similar to how Alexa controls multiple smart-home devices together.
Amazon also announced two sets of tools for third-party devices. A new Alexa Voice Service Multi-Room Music software development kit (SDK) will let hardware makers enable multi-room Alexa music on devices that incorporate Alexa directly through the Alexa Voice Service (AVS). Amazon cited the example of someone using three Echo devices and two AVS speakers, playing music across all five.
In addition, new Connected Speaker APIs will let people use Alexa devices to play and control multi-room audio across connected speaker systems. Connected speaker makers including Sonos, Bose, Sound United, and Samsung are working on it, the company said.
Antoine Leblond, Sonos vice president of software (and former Microsoft executive) said in a statement: “Alexa set the standard for voice in smart homes, so working with Amazon to bring voice control to Sonos for the first time was an obvious choice. This has been a close collaboration from the beginning as we’ve worked together to combine the magic of Alexa with the seamless multi-room audio capabilities that Sonos pioneered. We’re proud of the work we’ve done together as Amazon’s first multi-room partner – all you’ll need is an Alexa-enabled device and playing music out loud on Sonos will be as easy as saying ‘Alexa, play music in the living room.’”
This is part of a broader push by Amazon to get people using multiple Echo devices across the home. Previously the company launched an intercom feature that lets users talk through the speaker on one Echo device from another Echo device or the Alexa smartphone app,
“In just the last few months, we’ve added dozens of new features to Alexa that enhance your entertainment experience—control of Amazon Fire TV and your home entertainment systems via Echo; music lyrics, Amazon Video, and movie trailers on Echo Show; and activity-based music searches—and we’re just getting started,” said Toni Reid, Amazon Alexa vice president, in the news release announcing the feature. “Today, we’re making Alexa even smarter with an all-new feature that lets you play music synchronized on multiple Echo devices to provide room-filling music throughout your home.”
Reid is speaking at the GeekWire Summit in October in Seattle, where she will be interviewed by New York Times reporter Nick Wingfield on stage.