A smart cuckoo clock might be too weird even for Amazon

Nathan Ingraham
·Deputy Managing Editor
·3-min read

Amazon announced its "Day 1" hardware program last year as a way to build unusual hardware products in limited quantities, get feedback from users and eventually make them more widely available. In fact, Amazon's Echo Frames are the first bit of hardware to "graduate" from Day 1 to general availability. Now, the company is expanding Day 1 with a new program called "Built It." Like Day 1, Built It features some unconventional devices, but it's directly taking consumer interest into account when deciding whether to sell the products at all in a way that's similar to what Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been doing.

The first three Built It products -- a cuckoo clock, smart nutrition scale and sticky note printer -- were announced today. You can order them now, but Amazon will only make them if they hit a sales goal by March 19th. If they do, you'll get charged and will receive the item at some point between July and September this year. If the goals aren't met, that's the end of the road for the product and anyone who pre-ordered it won't be charged.

At first glance, these devices honestly look quite charming. They all invoke classic "non-smart" versions of the products they represent without looking overly modern; they certainly have different design aesthetics than Amazon's usual hardware. All three devices must be paired to a compatible Echo device, and both the clock and scale need to be within 30 feet of that device.

Once that's set, you can ask Alexa to set timers, alerts and so forth and the cuckoo clock will display them on a small LED display. It has a built-in speaker for various alert sounds, and you can customize the different clock sounds to suit your mood. It also automatically sets time on the analog clock face via its connection to the Echo.

The smart sticky note printer sounds pretty clever -- you can ask Alexa to print out little reminder notes, shopping lists, recipes or even little sudoku puzzles. The tiny box is a thermal printer, so you don't need to worry about ink. It comes with a classic yellow roll of paper, and Amazon says it'll make additional colors if the product meets its goal.

Naturally, the scale weighs things, but you can also as Alexa for nutritional information for what's on the scale -- instead of just getting generic nutritional info, you can find out how much sugar is in the amount of blueberries you've weighed out. If you pair the scale to an Echo Show, it'll also pull up nutritional info and show it on the screen.

As you can see, none of these gadgets are trying to do much, which is probably the right approach with these small, relatively inexpensive items. The scale is the cheapest at $35, the clock is $80 and the printer is $90. OK, so the printer is a little pricy, but at least you won't need to ever add ink to it.