Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa has received a large update, making it much easier to find and activate skills from third-party services.
The Alexa mobile app that shows all the available skills—totalling 1,400 as of Tuesday—has been revamped to show skills in an organized fashion, and the app now features search.
It is a major improvement over the previous Alexa app, which was a long list of unorganized skills without any search or category functionality.
Amazon Echo owners can also activate a skill through voice, simply by saying “Alexa, enable 7 minute workout.” This bypasses the mobile app entirely, and since skills are loaded in the cloud users don’t need to worry about storage space.
“We are thrilled that tens of thousands of developers are already building skills for Alexa, helping to grow our Alexa skill selection by 50 percent in just over a month. And today, we’re excited to introduce new features that make it even easier for customers to discover those skills,” said Steve Rabuchin, vice president of Amazon’s Alexa branch. “This is a win for developers and for customers, and we can’t wait to hear what they think.”
To emphasize the growth of the Alexa platform, Amazon mentioned two considerable new skills, Lyft and Honeywell, which both launched on Tuesday. It is worth mentioning that both launched skills later than their major competitor, Uber and Nest, respectively.
Alexa wants your startups
Amazon also made mention of the Alexa fund, which invests in startups that bring their service to Alexa. The fund has spent an undisclosed amount on 16 startups, mostly wearable and smart home focused. In the future, Amazon wants to shift its funding to robotics, developer tools, healthcare, and accessibility, which points to a large diversification of services now applicable to the Alexa platform.
Amazon has become a major contender in the smart home battle, thanks to the popularity of the Echo. The e-commerce giant doesn’t release sales data, but market research firm CIRP estimates over three million units have been sold as of April 6.
That success may lead to even more hardware from Amazon, which may include a wearable.