Alexa Gets a Face with Nucleus

A Home Connectivity Tablet for Every Room in the House

Get ready for the Nucleus family. Last week, a start-up called Nucleus began selling its tablet-formed Internet appliance, which it first showed at CES 2015. The device, also called Nucleus, is now available on Amazon in the US as well as Lowe’s home improvement stores. Prices start at $249.

The company presents Nucleus as a “family communications system” supporting Facetime-like communication as well as home monitoring and control. It runs on Wi-Fi and Ethernet. There is currently no WAN version.

Nucleus is essentially an evolved tablet, which takes advantage of decreasing hardware costs and increased hardware capabilities, and provides a glimpse of where it thinks home computing is headed. Nucleus’s inventors imagine a series of uses for the device: it can be used as a security camera, similar to Dropcam, which allows people to check in on their homes from its proprietary smartphone app; it can be used to make Internet-based video calls to other Nucleus units or smartphone users; or used within the house as a sort of advanced intercom. The device also supports Insteon — Nest and Samsung’s SmartThings product — enabling the device to be used as an interface for households and piecing together a so-called smart home.

Nucleus is part of an interesting and growing category of products for the home, which tie together video cameras, screens and connectivity to offer communication, control and security. What catches our attention with Nucleus is its integration of Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa. We have written in the past about the growing importance of voice interfaces and artificial assistants. Platforms from Amazon as well as Apple, Google and Microsoft are developing into the next generation of ecosystems.

By implementing Alexa Voice Services, Nucleus can tap into Alexa’s growing catalogue of more than 1,400 “skills” — third-party apps that connect the user to features such as pizza delivery and ride hailing services.

Amazon’s long-term play is to get Alexa into as many homes as possible — in fact, into as many rooms as possible — to establish a venue for everyday modern life. Alexa is now in cars, watches and on tabletops and kitchen counters. It’s rapidly building a reputation as the gold-standard of voice interfaces, although it will soon face increased competition as Google, Microsoft, Apple and others step up their efforts. Amazon is funding more uses with its $100 million Alexa Fund. A nucleus is the central part of an object and, with Alexa, devices like this will make Amazon the centre of a common day. All retailers and service providers worldwide should listen closely.