Echo Buttons are here, but what does Amazon’s Alexa add-on even do?

Echo Buttons were first detailed at Amazon’s big hardware event back in September, but even at that time it was largely unclear what role the gaming-focused add-on would play in the Alexa ecosystem. After a lengthy pre-order process, the colorful Buttons finally started shipping this week (and quickly sold out). There’s currently a one-week lead time to secure a two-pack for $20, which is curious given the simple design and functionality.

Amazon has clearly struck a chord with Alexa owners, but what do Echo Buttons offer this expanding user base?

Each Echo Button comes in a 75mm by 36mm package, offering a palm-sized response accessory for an ever-expanding selection of skills. I wrote earlier this week that Amazon’s ability to quickly bring in new developers to its SDK is a strength, but also a deterrent. The online giant is surely banking on more developers introducing new games over the next year. This has already happened with Trivial Pursuit Tap by Hasbro, amongst other titles.

So how do Echo Buttons work? Each one connects to your Echo (1st and 2nd Gen), Echo Dot, Echo Show, Echo Plus, or Echo Spot via Bluetooth. Thanks to included AAA batteries, all you’ll need to say is “Alexa, setup my Echo Buttons” and the pairing process is started.

You can connect up to four Buttons at a time to the aforementioned devices, which is somewhat disappointing if you have a larger group looking to play.

Echo Buttons deliver a new way to play games with friends using Alexa. Enjoy hours of entertainment with compatible Alexa Skills like Button Monte, Hanagram, and Sounds Fun with Mike Epps from Ground Control. Echo Buttons are the first members of the Alexa Gadget family, a new collection of accessories that enable fun and playful Alexa experiences.

At the time of this writing, there are nine different Echo Button-enabled skills available for use. Trivial Pursuit is certainly the biggest name on the list, but it looks like more are on the way. Alexa’s Jeopardy skill is a natural fit in the coming months for full-on integration.

So what’s ahead for Echo Buttons? Aside from the addition of more skills and games, my hope is that Amazon adds further integration into its Alexa ecosystem. I’m envisioning what Philips Hue has done with its own dimmers and buttons.

When you’re not dominating your friends in trivia, an Echo Button could be leveraged to quickly change lighting scenes or call up other frequently used tasks. This seems like a no-brainer way to bring Echo Buttons from an after-thought party favor to an integral part of your daily routine.

You can order Echo Buttons today for $19.99 Prime shipped and expect to have them delivered within the week or so.

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