One of the things that impressed me the most about the Amazon Echo was Alexa, the brains behind the smart speaker that rivals Siri in terms of intelligent assistance and connectedness. Amazon is opening up the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) to other devices, noting in a recent blog post the free availability of the feature in a developer preview.
What the Alexa Voice Service can do
AVS lets users speak to Alexa through their device’s microphone, with the assistant responding through the speakers or headphones. The virtual assistant can do things like answer questions, keep users informed on the news with a customizable news feed, help you explore Prime Music, and provide traffic updates. That’s not even close to all Alexa can do, and Amazon is adding new capabilities to the AVS almost weekly. Since Alexa responds to natural language, controlling her and getting information from her is easy and seamless.
What the developer preview provides
To help get developers started, Amazon has provided a collection of self-service tools, documentation, application programming interfaces (APIs), and code samples. There are some things Alexa can do on the Amazon Echo that haven’t been rolled into the developer preview yet, like setting alarms or timers, getting sports scores and schedules, and manipulating cloud-controlled devices, but those functionalities are said to be coming soon.
Why it matters
As nice as Siri is, some people might prefer to have continuity between their Amazon Echo and their iPhones or iPads. Even better, the free access to a developer toolkit for AVS could mean additional devices being built with Alexa integrated. I would welcome an app that enabled Alexa on my iPhone, along with all of her capabilities. Furthermore, encouraging Apple to continue developing the functionality of Siri is a great thing, since it can indirectly make the personal assistant built into your iPhone even better.
If you’re a developer who wants to get in on the action, or just want to learn more about the preview, check out Amazon’s Web page for the project.