Amazon and Whirlpool are hoping homeowners will pay for the luxury of not having to run down the stairs to pause a load of laundry or sprint to the kitchen to check on dinner.
Whirlpool announced on Tuesday that its new home appliances will be compatible with Amazon's Alexa voice assistant. This means these appliances will be designed to respond to voice requests for tasks like pausing and starting a load of laundry, asking for the time remaining on a wash cycle, adjusting the cooking mode on a smart oven, and turning on maximum cool settings for refrigerators among other commands. In addition to owning a Whirlpool appliance that supports the tech, users will need to have an Amazon Alexa-enabled device (Echo, Echo Dot, Fire TV, etc.) nearby to listen up for commands.
Whirlpool hasn't revealed exactly which models will work with Alexa, but did say they will debut early this year along with the Whirlpool skill for Alexa. Skills are like apps; they're add-ons that enable Alexa to perform various tasks and communicate with different products and third-party services.
It's also a sign that Amazon is looking to expand Alexa beyond just being able to dim the lights or change the temperature. The partnership is further evidence that Amazon hopes to position Alexa as being a critical home companion. In September, GE announced that certain appliance models including dishwashers, refrigerators and laundry machines would be compatible with Alexa.
Amazon's competition in the smart home space will likely thicken as companies like Apple and Samsung continue to develop their own smart home ecosystems and virtual butlers. Samsung acquired Viv Labs last year, a company that makes an advanced voice assistant, and Apple expanded Siri's capabilities to work with third party apps and services last fall.