Amazon wants its Alexa voice assistant to be everywhere you are: in your home, on your phone and, now, even in your car. Today, Garmin has teamed up with Amazon to announce the Garmin Speak with Amazon Alexa.
The Garmin Speak is a small, 1.5-inch circular device with an LED illuminated ring that looks a lot like a nano-scale, which it sort of is. From its perch above your car’s dashboard, Speak allows drivers to access Amazon Alexa voice skills with the hands-free “Alexa…” keyword. So, “Alexa, play my hip-hop playlist,” “Alexa, order diapers” and “Alexa, play 20 questions” all work as expected. (That last one could actually come in handy on a long road trip.)
However, the Speak has a few extra tricks up its sleeve that make it particularly suited for use in the car. For starters, the hardware pairs with a Garmin Speak app on your smartphone and a Garmin skill for the Alexa service that allows it to search for destinations and give turn-by-turn directions. Just say, “Alexa, ask Garmin to route me to the nearest gas station,” “Alexa, ask Garmin to find brunch” or “Alexa, ask Garmin for directions home.”
Audio, whether streamed audiobook or navigation directions, is routed through the car’s audio system and speakers via Bluetooth or an auxiliary audio cable. The Garmin Speak itself appears to house a small microphone.
A small OLED display on the Speak’s face shows arrows and distance to the next turn, but there’s no traditional car-on-a-map display. The upshot is that there’s nothing to pull a driver’s eyes away from the road for very long. Even inbound calls can be answered or ignored with a voice command.
The Speak is the first in-vehicle device to pair hands-free Alexa access with Garmin navigation software, but it’s not the first partner to bring Amazon’s voice service into the car. Logitech’s Zerotouch smartphone mounts with their companion apps gained Alexa earlier this year. However, Garmin’s solution is interesting because it allows the driver to put away their phone and use its low-distraction hardware.
The Garmin Speak with Amazon Alexa is available today on Amazon (of course) and at Best Buy with an MSRP of $149.