June 26, 2015
Amazon is digging deep to support oral interaction between humans and machines.
Dubbed the Alexa Fund, the program earmarks up to $100 million in investments to “support developers, manufacturers, and start-ups of all sizes who are passionate about creating new experiences designed around the human voice.”
“Experiences designed around the human voice will fundamentally improve the way people use technology,” says Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. “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. We’re eager to see what they come up with.”
Money will be doled out based on the potential for “unique or novel applications” of voice technology that make use of the newly launched Alexa Skills Kit or the Alexa Voice Service.
The Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) is a collection of self-service APIs and tools that enable developers to create new voice-driven skills and capabilities for Alexa.
“With a few lines of code, developers can easily integrate existing web services with Alexa or, in just a few hours, they can build entirely new experiences designed around voice,” reads a company press release. “For example, an Internet-connected sprinkler system can integrate its sprinklers with Alexa, so a customer can say, ‘Alexa, ask my sprinkler to water my lawn for 15 minutes’.”
The Alexa Voice Service (AVS) is now available to third-party hardware makers wishing to integrate Alexa into their devices—for free. A Wi-Fi alarm clock maker, for instance, can create an Alexa-enabled clock radio, so users can ask “What’s the weather today?” or “What time is my first meeting?”
Amazon launched the Alexa-powered Echo earlier this week. The tall, cylinder-shaped, Internet-connected device acts as a digital assistant. For instance, a user could ask, “Alexa, who created the Internet?” or “Alexa, how many ounces are in one pound?”
Some basic functions include playing a user’s favorite songs on request, giving the weather forecast, updating a shopping list or checking the user’s calendar.
Amazon Echo is available for pre-order to U.S. customers at www.amazon.com/echo for $179.99. It is to ship July 14.
Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.