Seattle startup’s ‘TalkSocket’ combines Alexa and PopSockets, launches on Kickstarter for $49 – GeekWire
A Seattle startup is partnering with PopSockets to turn the popular smartphone grip into a miniature Amazon Alexa device.
Known as TalkSocket, the new product has two internal microphones that let users activate Alexa hands-free, using normal voice commands even when a phone is locked. It connects to the Alexa app on iOS and Android devices via Bluetooth.
TalkSocket debuted on Kickstarter on Tuesday morning, available for a minimum pledge of $49, including a basic wireless charger. As of publication time, the Kickstarter campaign had raised more than $12,000 of its $25,000 goal.
With its multicolored blue ring, it looks like a tiny Echo smart speaker, but the TalkSocket does not actually include a speaker, relying instead on the smartphone or other device for audio output. One result is longer battery life: TalkSocket uses Qi wireless charging and promises up to five days of use per charge.
The startup behind the device, formally incorporated as FindyPhone Inc., is led by CEO and co-founder Andrew DeLorenzo, a veteran of companies including Amazon, DataSphere, Tipper, and buuteeq. Other executives include CTO and co-founder Chandler Murch, who previously managed IT business operations at Valve Software; chief marketing officer Mike Soderholm, the former VP of Marketing for Otter Products, and hardware engineering leader Russ Borgmann, who previously led hardware product development for Amazon’s Lab126 emerging devices group.
Part of the idea is to take Amazon’s voice assistant further out into the world, DeLorenzo explained in a recent interview.
“Right now, Alexa is dominating the smart home but when it comes to usage on on smartphones, it gets down into the single digits depending on which report you read. She does not leave the house well,” he said. “If you look at the solutions that are out there, they’re either expensive, or clunky.”
Amazon is at a disadvantage on smartphones vs. Google and Apple, which integrate their voice assistants directly into the popular mobile operating systems. The TalkSocket is accessing Alexa via Amazon’s third-party software development kit.
Separately, PopSockets has been at odds with Amazon over its treatment as a third-party seller on the e-commerce giant’s marketplace.
TalkSocket got its start after DeLorenzo left his phone in an Uber in 2017 and was unable to find it with the “find my Android” feature because the battery was dead. The original vision was to create a hardware solution that would locate a phone even if the battery was dead, potentially competing against Tile, Pebblebee and others in that market.
After multiple twists and turns, the team ended up starting with other features in the TalkSocket but is still looking to incorporate phone-finding technologies into future iterations of the device.
In addition to the Alexa integration, TalkSocket also can be set up to integrate hand-free with Google Assistant on iOS devices, and the company says it will also be capable of integrating with other voice assistants.
TalkSocket works with PopSocket’s swappable accessory system, attaching to the base and accordion design. It also integrates with OtterBox’s Otter + Pop cases, and with other devices compatible with PopSockets. TalkSocket devices are slated to ship in the first quarter of next year, followed by a broader retail launch in the second quarter.