Amazon to take on Apple, Google with 'Alexa' voice assistant

  • Siladitya Ray, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 26, 2015 13:18 IST

Amazon has announced three initiatives to support its Alexa voice service and accompanying wireless personal assistant, Amazon Echo, including a software development kit and a $100-million fund to back engineers building experiences around human speech.

The announcement came two days after Amazon made the Echo wireless speaker available to the masses. The e-retail giant now wants hardware developers to incorporate Alexa, the Echo's cloud-based virtual assistant, into new, third-party devices.

If external developers choose to integrate Alexa with new hardware, it could make Amazon's approach to voice search ubiquitous in a way Siri, Cortana and Google Now haven't managed as yet.

Developers can use the cloud-based Amazon Voice Service (AVS) to build Alexa into new devices.

“Experiences designed around the human voice will fundamentally improve the way people use technology,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement.

“Since introducing Amazon Echo, we’ve heard from developers, manufacturers, and start-ups of all sizes who want to innovate with this new technology. With the Alexa Fund, we want to empower people to explore the boundaries of voice technology.”

The company is also releasing the Alexa Skills Kit, a set of application programme interfaces (APIs) and tools to allow developers to create new features for the Echo and future Alexa-enabled devices.

If Amazon is successful, it may be able to take centre stage in the fast growing space called the Internet-of-things (IoT) and integrate into smart homes.

Tech news site The Verge reported that Amazon has invested in seven start-ups so far. One, Mojio, is a connected car outfit that will use Alexa to allow drivers to ask how much fuel they need before their next trip.

Another, Scout Alarm, lets homeowners arm and disarm their home security system with only a vocal command.

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