Amazon wants to know how annoyed it can make you

The great retailer in the sky wonders whether you'd like to pre-order some truly new Alexa-enabled products -- one of which you really might love. For a few days.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

You want it badly. Until you badly don't.


You have to admire Amazon's ingenuity.

It's managed to capture the world by imagining just how lazy people can really be.

But once you've done that, you can get bored. You want to have some fun, inventing products that you haven't, perhaps, copied from one of your Marketplace sellers. Or even anyone else.

So here's Amazon taking its Day 1 Editions program -- where it tries to get customer feedback on real new products -- to more exalted levels of potential joy.

The new Build It program shows customers new products. If enough customers choose to pre-order these products, they will be made and, um, change people's lives.

Amazon describes it as "low risk, high reward."

If enough customers pre-order within a limited time period, Amazon will build this marvelous new Alexa-enabled invention. If they don't, the customers don't get charged.

Because we're talking about adding smartness to the world's increasing smartlack, don't you know?

What's not to adore?

Who wouldn't want to have a say in which utterly useful product Amazon will create next?

Why, among the initial three is the Smart Sticky-Note Printer. Because you're far too lazy to write a shopping list using the oddities of pen and paper. And isn't voice-to-print technology so much more fun, especially when it uses an inkless thermal printer? What a bargain at $89.99.

But wait. Here's something that may be genuinely useful too. A Smart Nutrition Scale. This tells you how much bad stuff is in the good -- and bad -- stuff you're thinking of eating.

I can imagine hours of family fun discovering how much -- Amazon's example -- sugar is in a bunch of blueberries. The smart nutrition scale even weighs things. Because only a smart scale tells the truth. Your ordinary bathroom scale lies about your weight all the time.

And this Smart Nutrition Scale is an edifying steal at a mere $34.99.

But you know Amazon's just playing with you, don't you? These relatively sensible ideas -- even if nothing Alexa-enabled can be deemed truly sensible -- are shadowed, humbled, and dwarfed beside the third Build It idea.

The Smart Cuckoo Clock.

How many times have you said to yourself: "Gee, why don't I have an Alexa-enabled cuckoo clock? It'd be the perfect melding of the old world and the new. It would bring so much aural joy to my world. And the kids would really love it!"?

In my case, not at all. I have been in houses where they have analog cuckoo clocks and the joy element is quite limited.

But just imagine that this inordinately clever cuckoo clock "works with Alexa and features 60 LEDs, a mechanical pop-out cuckoo bird, and built-in speakers for timers and alarms."

An actual mechanical cuckoo bird? Not some sort of hologramic mirage? I'm sold. This is what every kitchen needs to create that homey feeling. I'm preparing my $79.99 as I write. Well, I would if I allowed Alexa in the house.

Still, I have a strong feeling Amazon wants this product to win. It wants the smart scale and the smart sticky note printer to be prosaic footnotes to a mechanical cuckoo. (And, oh, I can already hear the kinds of noises it'll make.)

It wants to see just how aggressively it can infiltrate the tolerance level of Americans.

It wants America to be cuckooed to the point of screaming. Or, as Amazon puts it: "Make alerts more fun." Because if you can't have a fun alert, what sort of contemporary American are you?

It's unclear, of course, which particular "custom chimes and alarms" will be available. And I do think this is quite important. If it only makes 600 variations on a cuckoo coo-coo then I feel sure everyone will love it for a few days and then everyone will throw things at it for every day after that.

Which would be its own way to make alerts more fun.

Please excuse me, I'm being oddly harsh. Even if one slight drawback is that you have to hang your cuckoo clock within 30 feet of a compatible Echo device. (All these inventions have the same drawback, mind.)

You see, I just took a peek at how each of these products is doing and there is a clear leader.

In a sign of a (perhaps) saner America, the Smart Sticky Note Printer has already reached 30% of its pre-order goal. The Smart Nutrition Scale has reached a piffling 15% of its goal.

And the Smart Cuckoo Clock? It's also only at 15%.

Now I feel like encouraging every American to get a Smart Cuckoo Clock.

Come on, America. Let's show the world we've really gone cuckoo.

Every new Alexa device: Scenes from Amazon's event [in pictures]

Editorial standards