There aren't many Echo-oriented accessories beyond Amazon's own Echo Button, but that's about to change very shortly. Amazon has released a beta Alexa Gadgets Toolkit that lets hardware brands make Echo-focused Bluetooth accessories that respond to Alexa commands. You can have a cuckoo clock that responds to your Echo's wake word or a notification, a switch that releases dog food after an alarm, or a chime that sounds when time's up. A future update will even allow visual interaction with music -- it's easy to see a lamp that pulses in sync with Amazon Music tracks.
Child-oriented updates will also let developers build gadgets that include compatible kid-friendly skills.
The toolkit is invitation-only and focused on businesses in the US, UK and Germany, so this isn't available to absolutely anyone. Amazon does have big name partners like Hasbro, TOMY and WowWee , and the first products (including smart plush toys and Gemmy's Big Mouth Billy Bass) are due before 2018 is over.
While the restrictions aren't going to make do-it-yourself enthusiasts happy, this does promise to significantly expand the Echo ecosystem. Companies won't need to implement sophisticated processors, audio capture or cloud services. Instead, they can let an Echo do the heavy lifting and focus on a gadget's special features. Don't be shocked if an Echo quickly becomes a must-have component for play time, or even around-the-house widgets like clocks and timers.