In my last post I discussed implementing Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service on a Raspberry Pi but you can also do the same on other platforms; witness AVS driving a hacked Big Mouth Billy Bass:
Created by Brian Kane, a a teacher at Rhode Island School of Design, this is a wonderful rethink of a 20-year old, hideous … what could you call it? Toy? Thing? Conversation piece? Built on an Arduino, Kane’s Big Mouth Alexa Bass (my name, not Brian’s) is a work of genius.
But wait! There’s more! The Alexa Voice Service is starting to appear in commercial products and I just got my hands on an cool product; FABRIQ, an Alexa-enabled Bluetooth speaker.
FABRIQ is small (it’s 3.2 inch in diameter and 3.2 inches tall), weighs just 12.8 ounces, has Bluetooth for playing audio from your smartphone or pad (free iOS and Android apps allow you to control and stream to multiple FABRIQ speakers simultaneously), It also sports Wi-Fi to connect to the Alexa Voice Service, a 5W amplifier, and a rechargeable battery that lasts around 5 hours.
The bezel around the base pulses a pleasant white color when switched on (the power switch is underneath the device) or, by pressing a button on the concealed panel behind the flap that has the microphone, play/pause, and volume controls on it, you can have the FABRIQ pulse in multiple colors reminding you that, thankfully, the days of disco are far behind us (okay, I admit it, I actually really like this feature).
Built before Amazon changed the licensing of AVS to allow for “wake words”, you have to press the microphone button on the side panel to get Alexa to pay attention to you (the company’s next version of this product may have this feature enabled). The Alexa Voice Service support allows you to stream any Alexa-enabled music and audio service to a FABRIQ speaker.
The sound quality is surprisingly good for such a small form factor and my only complaint is that to recharge the FABRIQ you have to plug into the USB charging port hidden under the panel which means that you can’t keep the device continuously charged without having the flap raised. I also wish that the Wi-Fi connection would allow the FABRIQ to be used with services such as AirPlay, Play-Fi, or DLNA.
Priced at just $49.99, the FABRIQ is excellent value and a great stocking stuffer for the nerds on your Christmas list (yes, I know it’s early for that but at the rate at which this year’s passing, you better start planning now). The FABRIQ speaker gets a Gearhead rating of 5 out of 5.