Siri and Cortana watch out! Amazon has decided to give developers access to Alexa, its cloud-based voice assistant, as it chases a bigger slice of that particular market. Amazon is keen to expand the reach of Alexa beyond the company’s own Amazon Echo device. Kindle users, for instance, may soon be able to turn from one page of content to another on the device without even having to touch it.
The new Alexa Application Program Interface (API) allows third-party developers to easily integrate support for the system into their apps, and allows the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) to be connected into Internet of Things (IoT) devices. IoT has become big business. A new report from global management consulting giant McKinsey & Company is putting the economic impact of IoT technologies at a projected $3.9 billion to $11.1 trillion by 2025 – just ten years away.
Discussing the new Alexa API, Greg Hart, Amazon Echo and AVS vice president, emphasised how easy Alexa is being made for developers, noting that all that is needed is a device with an internet connection, a speaker and a microphone, plus a few lines of code.
In a connected development, Amazon has announced the setting up of the Alexa Fund. Up to $100 million is to be given over to the support of developers and gadget builders as well as startup companies dedicated to voice-powered experiences. Amazon believes that experiences that have been designed around the human voice represent fundamental improvements to how technology is used. With the Alexa Fund, the e-commerce giant is focusing in particular on the following areas:
- Hardware products for use on the inside or outside of homes that would benefit from the Alexa voice interface.
- Functions that open up new abilities for Alexa-enabled devices.
- Developments that add to such aspects of voice technology as text to speech, automatic speech recognition and natural language understanding.
Amazon is seeking to invest in projects that have the customer as their focus and that demonstrate innovation and leadership. In return, it is promising financial support and, just as importantly, the backing of a company with a track record of fostering innovation and successful products.