Last week, GE unveiled the first light with Amazon’s Alexa voice-assistant onboard. Nestled neatly on a side table, the C by GE lamp, which is due out in the first half of 2017, can carry out all the pizza-ordering, music-playing, temperature-controlling tasks of an Echo, Dot, or Tap. It will also provide light, it just doesn’t look like any bulb you’d expect to see from GE.
“Oh my god, it looks like a NuvaRing,” laughed one editor. “I bet it’s great for selfies,” said another, noting its striking similarity to a ring light. “Nah, I think it’s more a Tron frisbee,” I quipped. Or maybe a Quiddich goal…
Now, GE has made connected Edison-style bulbs before. The secret to that design was fashioning the familiar filament into the bulb’s Wi-Fi antenna. But, cramming all that an Alexa-enabled device requires into a bulb is tricky business, says Tom Stimac, GE Lighting’s Chief Innovation Manager Connected Products and one of the design leads on the project. “There’s still some innovation left to take it from where it is today to be able to get into the bulb,” Stimac says.
To stay on top of its tasks, the device needs a strong and consistent Wi-Fi connection, 360-degree microphones, a fast (read: heat producing) processor, and a clear speaker. “Trying to cram it all inside what we would call your normal 60 watt or 100 watt bulb is probably not the best user experience,” continues Stimac.