Alexa, the chatty personality that makes the Amazon Echo smart speaker so fun and handy, wants to join more devices. The company announced Friday the launch of its free Alexa Voice Service (AVS) developer preview.
AVS was born out of the company’s work on the Echo, which may be Amazon’s best hardware product since its Kindle e-reader. The device is a voice-controlled cylindrical appliance that can tell you the weather, give you traffic conditions on your commute, play music, control connected lights and other appliances, and—of course—buy things from Amazon.
Voice features may seem rather dime-a-dozen these days, but Echo’s accuracy and grasp of natural language could be among the best to date. Although it’s not perfect either, it does largely succeed in living up to the promise of understanding organic speech. Users can talk to it easily, without learning a rigid lexicon of verbal commands.
Now hardware makers, both professional and hobbyists, can see what those language powers can bring to their projects.
Here’s The Caveat
Bear in mind, however, that this is a developer preview, not a polished or official roll-out. That means partners can’t actually launch any new features based on the Alexa Voice Service yet. Amazon still hasn’t flipped that switch.
Earlier this year, the company offered beta versions of its Alexa Appkit. But even as it wrapped up Echo’s limited early availability with a broad consumer release last month, there was still no word about the developer tools.
The AVS developer preview may not be a polished release either, but at least it represents progress—if not for Echo itself, then at least for partners who want to use Alexa’s voice technology for their own mic-and-speaker-equipped connected products. They can now work with the technology and the resources that go along with it.
Amazon highlights the following benefits:
Use AVS to extend your hardware’s capabilities and interact with your customers in new ways. Benefits of AVS include:
• Create Frictionless Interfaces for Your Customers. Allow your customers to control your device in more intuitive ways with a natural language voice interface. By integrating AVS with your device, your customer no longer needs to get out their phone, find an app, and use their thumbs to invoke a command. All they have to do is ask via the microphone on your device.
• Scale Quickly in the Cloud. AVS is cloud based and scales as your needs scale. You don’t need to worry about provisioning hardware and managing infrastructure to power your voice experience.
• Integrate Easily. No experience with voice recognition or Natural Language Understanding (NLU) is required. Using AVS, add Alexa to your device in just a few hours. Leave understanding human speech to us and focus on your differentiated value add to customers.
• Build for Free. Using AVS to power speech experiences on your devices is completely free.
The developer preview includes the tools, documentation, APIs and code samples. Alexa support also allows access to information, music, audiobooks, news, weather and traffic, among other things—including any new skills developers want to create or customize using Amazon’s other toolset, the Alexa Skills Kit.
For more information, visit Amazon’s AVS developer portal.
Screen capture courtesy of Amazon; lead photo by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite