Adding Alexa to your car has never been so cheap.
The Muse looks like any number of car gadgets — it’s a disc about the size of an Oreo cookie that sticks to your dashboard and connects to a USB port or lighter socket. It contains a microphone and it connects to your phone via Bluetooth.
So far, so typical. But Speak Music isn’t your ordinary car accessory maker. In fact, it’s not a car accessory maker at all — at least not until now. The company makes voice-recognition tech tailored for music accessories, enabling devices like headphones to better recognize very specific commands. Think: not just “play,” “pause,” or “skip,” but “play my death metal playlist on Spotify and crank it.”
With Muse, the company is using its tech to bridge the gap between drivers and Amazon’s Alexa. Powered by a Qualcomm chip, the device combines Speak Music’s music-specific commands with everything you can already tell Alexa to do. In the car, that will probably mostly be playing podcasts and playlists from Amazon and its favored partners (like IHeartRadio and TuneIn … Spotify compatibility is “coming”), but you can also turn up your thermostat, start a to-do list, play voice-activated word games, or anything else you do with Alexa at home.
I got a chance to check out the Muse in a ride at CES 2018, and it worked just as advertised. During a ride from Caesar’s Palace to the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Muse took voice commands to play specific artists and radio stations, check calendar events, and more. It takes a half-second longer than a typical countertop Echo to start listening to commands, but you hardly notice.
The Muse, which Speak Music partially funded through Kickstarter, is available now and costs $69, but it isn’t the first gadget to bring Alexa to cars. Logitech has one that’s about $10 cheaper than the Muse, but it’s Android-only because Amazon doesn’t provide the same APIs for iOS, Speak Music CEO Mark Anderson told me. Garmin has another that is iPhone-compatible, but it’s almost double the price at $120.
All of which is to say the Muse sounds like the ideal device for iPhone owners who want to bring Alexa to their cars cheaply and easily — especially if you use Alexa for music a lot. And since it has Bluetooth, USB, and Aux inputs, that means pretty much any car. We’ll need to live with the gadget for a while before we pass final judgment, but so far we like what we see … er, hear.