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Amazon introduces voice cloud service Alexa

The Amazon Echo voice service called Alexa

If Amazon is successful with its Alexa Voice Cloud Service, one day someone can utter the words “water my lawn” and an Internet-connected sprinkler system will do just that.

Alexa follows Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana in the marketplace, but this voice system is controlled by Amazon Echo, a new category of device designed around your voice. Echo is a hands-free and always on information, music, news, weather, and other things service. Alexa is built in the cloud and leverages Amazon Web Services platform to continue to learn and add functionality over time, the company said.

Amazon added that hardware developers can use the Alexa Voice Service to integrate Alexa into Internet-connected devices with only a few lines of code. The company claims no experience with natural language understanding or speech recognition is required. Alexa is also free.

Amazon is hoping developers will be able to create Alexa-powered solutions such as:

  • A Wi-Fi alarm clock that lets a customer talk to Alexa—“What’s the weather today?” or “What’s on my calendar today?”
  • A car that enables a driver to press the Alexa button on the steering wheel and request anything from Alexa, such as “Read my book” or “Remind me to pick up flowers after work.”
  • A movie ticket machine that lets a moviegoer say “Buy six tickets for the next showing of Jurassic World.”
  • A countertop weather station that enables customers to get more information by asking “What will the weather be next weekend?” or “What was the rainfall in June last year?”
  • A TV that makes finding tonight’s game simple—just pick up the remote and say “Turn on the baseball game.”
  • A home sound system that lets customers turn on music just by saying “Play my barbeque playlist on the back deck.”

Greg Hart, Vice President, Amazon Echo and Alexa Voice Services, said opening up Alexa to any device maker will enable them to integrate Alexa with just a few lines of code.

Recently, Alexa has added Pandora, Audible, traffic, sports scores and schedules, control of connected devices like WeMo and Philips Hue.

Some device vendors have already signed up for Alexa. For example, Wink, connects people and the products they need in the home using Alexa to enable customers to control and monitor the connected home using just their voice.

Nathan Smith, CTO of Wink, said Amazon is helping the company create an intuitive way to control the smart home. By integrating Alexa into the Wink platform, customers will be able to manage their home by turning on lights, locking doors, controlling temperature, and opening blinds—just by asking Alexa.

Scout Alarm, a new breed of home security that customers can install and manage themselves is another vendor partner for Alexa.

Alexa with Scout supports voice control capabilities and it opens up new ways for customers to interact with the security system. Customers can arm their system or remotely check in by telling Alexa what they want, said Dave Shapiro, CTO at Scout.

Alexa Voice Service will be made available as a developer preview starting next month. Amazon also introduced the Alexa Skills Kit, a collection of self-service APIs and tools for developers to create new voice-driven skills and capabilities.