Apple first put Siri in users' ears with the AirPods, and Google Assistant followed suite with the Google Pixel Buds. Now it looks like you'll soon be able to access Amazon Alexa directly from a headset too, thanks to a reference design announced by Qualcomm at its annual 4G/5G Summit in Hong Kong.
The reference design is essentially a blueprint for headset manufacturers and audio companies to use to build their own headsets for consumer release. While no manufacturers have announced plans to use the design, it's a sign that we might see the first Alexa headsets available to purchase in 2019.
Qualcomm's design is a pretty simple set of wireless earbuds with a push button to activate Alexa, which is probably what users should expect from the first wave of products to hit the market.
The Qualcomm Smart Headset Development Kit is the first Bluetooth headset reference design to be created with support for the Alexa Mobile Accessory Kit. The upshot of that is that it means the headsets could work with any phone running Amazon's Alexa app over Bluetooth, saving manufacturers from the need to develop their own smartphone apps to enable Alexa support.
The design features Qualcomm’s advanced Bluetooth audio chip (QCC5100-series), which brings a range of features in addition to native Alexa support. These feature include ultra-low power consumption for increased playback time and general battery life as well as Qualcomm cVc noise reduction technology for improved audio and voice service abilities.
The hardware also has the potential to support other voice assistants too, so it's possible that some companies could instead build in support for Google Assistant or other platforms.