It’s only been a few days since Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) Echo Bluetooth speaker went public – and now, Alexa’s already being expanded beyond Echo’s capabilities. Amazon has decided to release an Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) and Alexa Voice Services (AVS) SDK to third-party developers.
The Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) will allow Alexa to retrieve trivial, statistical, and other information with very little effort – in the same way that Alexa does with her current Echo integration. For example, in the same way that smartphones now tell us what time a movie is playing at a local theater, Alexa would be capable of the same capability. Even with devices like air conditioners and gaming consoles, Alexa would be able to turn the air to a particular temperature when
The Alexa Voice Services (or AVS) developer kit would allow Alexa to be built into other products such that those products, with Alexa enabled, could perform tasks they wouldn’t otherwise. A snack machine at the local cafeteria could, with an AVS developer kit, be able to deliver snacks through the snack machine instead of having customers open a door and pull out a snack, or reach their hand through the bottom of a snack machine to retrieve the purchase. The same could be done with coffee makers and coffee machines: Starbucks coffee could now be delivered ready made and hot without the user needing to put sugar and creamer in it.
The potential for Amazon’s new Alexa voice assistant can best be seen in the Internet of Things (IoT) race going on between the major tech giants at the moment (Google, Apple, Samsung, etc.). Amazon joins these ranks, offering consumers yet another take on having a Smart Home that’s connected to the Internet as much as possible. Google’s Project Brillo will involve its Nest smart thermostat, no doubt, and Samsung’s proprietary Tizen OS will power all of its devices including its Smart TVs, smartwatches, tablets, and smartphone lineup. Apple’s HomeKit is developed with the Smart Home in mind toward iOS users who’ve adopted an iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Apple Watch and want to see doorknobs, air conditioners, lighting, and other items turn “smart”.
Echo will be a success for desktop computers to provide a pleasurable audio experience, but Echo is just the beginning of Amazon’s journey into the Internet of Things. Alexa is a powerful voice assistant who is already capable of adding food items to a grocery list on Kindle tablets (as Amazon shows off in its latest demo video), and Alexa can only grow in capability if she’s extended beyond the Echo.
This is why Amazon has also decided, with its new voice assistant being available to third-party developers, to create a $100M Alexa Fund that will aid developers with the tools they need to integrate Alexa voice capabilities into their existing products. After all, the last thing developers need to face is a financial obstacle that would prevent Alexa from making her way into more and more products (and experiencing more and more consumer adoption). Amazon, like the major tech giants, cannot afford obstacles at this point and time in IoT’s earliest stages.
The race is still open for more competitors, and the challenges will be the same for many. At the end of the day, however, it’ll be interesting to see who gets the biggest slice of the pie. All will get some percentage, but not all will get the largest slice. Who’ll come out on top? You’ll have to keep your ear to the tech tunnel for the next few years to find out.