When Anna Perelman started stellé, she dreamed of bringing her sense of style and fashion to a world of otherwise dull, drab audio speakers. Today, her latest line is a unique marriage of design, sound, and the latest in voice technology.
“What I brought to stellé was my passion and a female focus on design,” says Perelman. “By adding the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) and the whole Alexa experience, we’ve taken our speakers to a whole new level for our customers.”
The inspiration for stellé came when Perelman’s husband, audio guru Wayne Ludlum, moved his equipment into their new home. Perelman laughingly gave him an ultimatum: "Either the tech goes, or you do.” Reimagining boring, boxy speakers into designer home furnishings was just the beginning. In 2017, the duo worked to integrate the Alexa Voice Service into stellé’s popular Pillar line of speakers, bringing the power of Alexa to their customers.
“Alexa Voice Service allows customers the freedom of self-expression while discovering the ease of voice control,” says Perelman. “Combining Alexa’s capabilities with a speaker that’s so beautiful and sounds so amazing means the days of hiding your speakers behind the sofa are a thing of the past.”
Alexa Enables Inspiration to Strike Twice
As an entrepreneur, the inspiration to innovate on something as ordinary as a speaker has come twice for Perelman—so far. First came the idea to design audio devices women would actually be excited to display in their homes. But swift advancements in voice technology would soon elevate her creations into the realm of truly smart speakers.
When Perelman shared her “ultimatum” story with friends, she found remarkably consistent reactions. While the men happily displayed their audio equipment for its amazing sound, the women couldn’t wait “to get the sound bar off the wall.” For Perelman, it just underscored a difference long ignored by the audio industry.
“I said wow, let's design an accessory that first and foremost is going to look beautiful in the home, but then give it the sound quality and technology to make it equally as exciting for both partners,” says Perelman. “That’s where our Pillar speaker came from.”
The stellé Pillar speaker launched for the holidays in 2014 in a variety of attractive colors, woodgrains and brushed metals—not to mention limited-edition collections featured in high-end retailers like Neiman Marcus. With Bluetooth streaming, stellar audio quality, and peer-to-peer networking capabilities, the devices were a hit not only with women, but with men, too.
In early 2017, Perelman saw the opportunity for a brand-new generation of the product: The Smart Pillar. This smart speaker would leverage the Alexa Voice Service APIs and development tools to integrate Alexa capabilities directly into the device, allowing customers to speak to Alexa on The Smart Pillar and receive voice responses and content instantly.
“Of all the voice-initiated services out there, we felt Alexa provided the strongest connected home capabilities, which would add the best value to our line of smart speakers,” says Perelman. “stellé found a new best friend; her name is Alexa. Now stellé has all the voice-activated tech that not only plays your favorite songs but also orders your groceries, tells you jokes, and makes a to-do list. We’re excited to integrate with Alexa and offer the ability to put a stellé smart speaker™ into every room.”
Perelman also feels adding Alexa to the Pillar was in line with her original mission of designing with women in mind. Besides providing access to the full range of Alexa skills and smart home controls, Perelman’s customers love being able to make quick purchases with their voices via their Amazon Prime accounts.
“Women are adopting technology faster than men now, and they make the majority of purchase decisions in the home. “And I always say that since we women have the gift of gab,” she laughs, “integrating Alexa into our products has an even more interesting story to it."
Great Voice Innovation Needs the Right Inputs
Already well designed for aesthetics and audio, stellé worked closely with the Alexa team to identify key hardware integrators, Libre Wireless and Micro-Semi, that provided a mic-to-cloud embedded chip solution for (AVS) with additional smart home and IoT applications. This allowed stellé to seamlessly integrate Alexa into the Pillar without affecting the product’s design or sound quality.
“Having the support of the Alexa team itself was beyond helpful,” says Perelman. “And then having AVS solution providers that were willing to work together and take it to the next level, that’s what ultimately led to the success.”
The Smart Pillar is always ready and provides the great capabilities of an Alexa-enabled device. Perelman says it was also important to provide a familiar Alexa experience, right down to the visual clues on the device.
Perelman’s team also added its own innovative features, including proactive detection for home safety. For example, the new far-field microphones let the unit identify audio patterns emitted by today’s smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
“If the alarm goes off, we can send you a text to notify you,” says Perelman. “We plan to get even more sophisticated with it in future phases, but if we hadn’t integrated far-field microphones for AVS, we wouldn’t have come up with that.”
Staying True to—and Going Beyond—Your Mission
“As a woman, voice is all about making life simpler and more seamless today, whether it's getting a recipe, checking your calendar or playing your favorite song,” says Perelman. “Those are the features that I love about Alexa, and it’s exciting that we’ll be bringing these capabilities to our products.”
Perelman truly believes the opportunities for women to stand out and make a difference today are so much greater than even a year ago. She points to stellé’s success with Smart Pillar and AVS, which will allow her to focus on more philanthropic activities in 2018, including creating opportunities for children in music education.
“We want to create an amazing product, but more importantly, our aim is also to do something bigger with our passion,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be something complicated to make an impact. It just has to be something that makes you excited to get up in the morning and take that risk.”
Learn more about stellé and follow @stelleaudio on Instagram.
Build with Alexa
Developers around the world are building rich voice experiences with the Alexa Skills Kit and Alexa Voice Service. Learn how to tech Alexa new capabilities with the Alexa Skills Kit, integrate Alexa into your product with the Alexa Voice Service, or connect your device to Alexa with the Smart Home Skill API or Gadgets SDK.
Source: Alexa Developer Blog