Amazon Opens Up Alexa To Developers and Third Parties
Written by Lucy Black
Thursday, 25 June 2015
Amazon's Alexa provides a cloud-driven way to add voice technology to services and devices and there's a role, and the potential for seed funding, for both developers and hardware manufacturers.
Amazon announced Echo. a wireless speaker with a built-in, voice-controlled, personal assistant called Alexa in November last year.
This launch video indicated what Alexa is capable of and it made lots of Amazon Prime customers in the US, the initial group of people eligible for the waiting list, very keen to buy one.
Seven months down the line, Echo became available for purchase in the US and UK and will begin shipping on July 14th.
In future Alexa will no longer be tied exclusively to Echo. Amazon has announced that the Alexa Voice Service (AVS), the cloud-based service behind Echo, is being made available for free to third party hardware makers who want to integrate Alexa into their devices.
One example of how AVS might be used is that a wi-fi alarm clock maker could create an Alexa-enabled clock radio, so a customer can talk to Alexa as they wake up, asking “what’s the weather today?” or “what time is my first meeting?”. The developer preview of AVS is planned to start next month.
For developers the important news is the availability of the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) which helps you create new voice-driven capabilities for Alexa, both for Echo and for other devices that take advantage of AVS.
ASK is a collection of self-service APIs, tools, documentation and code samples that make it fast and easy for you to add skills to Alexa. Using ASK, you can teach new skills to Alexa in just a few hours. No prior experience with speech recognition or natural language understanding is required. All of the code runs in the cloud — nothing is installed on any user device.
According to the announcement of the free SDK, which is now in developer preview:
The easiest way to build a skill for Alexa is to use AWS Lambda, an innovative compute service that runs a developer’s code in response to triggers and automatically manages the compute resources in the AWS Cloud, so there is no need for a developer to provision or continuously run servers. Developers simply upload the code for the new Alexa skill they are creating, and AWS Lambda does the rest, executing the code in response to Alexa voice interactions and automatically managing the compute resources on the developer’s behalf.
To propel developers and hardware manufacturers interest in voice technology and their adoption of Alexa, Amazon has also announced a $100 Million Alexa Fund, open to anyone, startups to established brands, with an innovative idea for using voice technology.
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