Beyond the Echo: Amazon opens its Alexa digital assistant to developers

The move targets voice-control and the Internet of Things

Published: June 26, 2015 12:00 PM

Amazon has long thrived on making life as simple as possible for its customers—drawing them ever-deeper into its ecosystem. Now, it has expanded on that mission with a series of moves designed to provide homeowners with sweeping access to Alexa, the personal assistant service it introduced with its Echo speaker.

Only two days after making the voice-activated Echo widely available to the public, the company announced that third-party developers, inventors and hobbyists are welcome to integrate Alexa into any device with an Internet connection, a microphone, and a speaker by using a few lines of free code.

This announcement accelerates Amazon's push into voice-controlled computing while also addressing the Internet of Things—an area already being targeted by Google with its Nest ecosystem, Apple with HomeKit, and other competitors. Amazon hopes that Alexa will be the interface people use to ask their alarm clocks for weather reports, their sprinkler system to water the lawn, and their TV to turn on a baseball game. The personal assistant service already links to Pandora, Audible and devices manufactured by WeMo, Philips Hue, and IFTTT—not to mention traffic reports, sports scores and team schedules. With today’s announcement, Amazon hopes to add home security systems, kitchen appliances, autos, and ticket sales to the mix.

To lure more devices onto the platform, the company introduced a developers kit and a $100 million investment fund, which it will use to support new applications. "Experiences designed around the human voice will fundamentally improve the way people use technology," said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. "With the Alexa Fund, we want to empower people to explore the boundaries of voice technology."

Chris Raymond

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