Amazon is making Alexa – the voice recognition technology powering its Echo home assistant – open to thirds party developers and manufacturers with a new set of software tools and $100 million in funding to support start-ups working on improving voice-guided technologies.
First up, the Alexa Skills Kit is a collection of APIs and tools aimed at making it easy for developers to add features to Alexa. Amazon says that with a few lines of code, developers should be able to integrate Alexa into existing products – or create completely new experiences within a few hours.
You could, for example, add health data from a fitness tracking app, and then be able to ask Alexa how many miles you’ve run in a week. And if you’re a hobbyist, Amazon even provides the example of adding your kid’s lunch menu to Alexa’s profile, so you can decide whether to pack him a lunch
Amazon says developers will need no experience with speech recognition to use it either – it does all the heavy lifting in the cloud.
The Alexa Voice Service meanwhile is a tool for manufacturers to add Alexa onto their own hardware devices. That means you could add weather search to a connected alarm clock, for instance, or implement voice control on your home’s sound system.
As with the Skills Kit above, Amazon says it takes just a few lines of code to get it all running – all your device needs is a speaker, a microphone and an internet connection. The tool will go live for developers starting next month.
Finally, Amazon also launched the Alexa Fund, which will provide “up to $100 million” in funding to help developers, manufacturers and startups build new voice-driven technologies and applications.
Developers can sign up to try the Alexa Skills Kit preview at https://developer.amazon.com/ASK, while manufacturers can sign up to be notified when the Alexa Voice service will be available at https://developer.amazon.com/AVS. The Alexa Fund is also launching today, which you apply for here.