Amazon’s popular virtual assistant, Alexa, continues to grow the number of "skills" as Amazon looks to make the service more intelligent. The tech giant announced on Tuesday that Alexa now boasts 1,400 skills—up from 1,000 skills in early June.
Alexa has become popular through its ability to answer questions, turn on lights, order items like diapers, and even call an Uber directly through the e-commerce giant’s voice-controlled home devices Echo and Echo Dot as well as its streaming device, Fire TV. Users simply utter a command instructing Alexa, like “Alexa, order an Uber to home."
With Wednesday's news, Alexa users will now be able to order Lyft rides directly from Echo, adding to the tens of thousands of developers who are currently building skills for Alexa. Alexa users can also start using their voices to add skills. Previously, users had to add skills manually through the Alexa mobile app. Now, users can say "Alexa, enable Lyft," or "Alexa, enable a 7-minute workout," and the skills will automatically be added.
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Alexa’s skills and technology have also helped Amazon turn the Echo into a new hardware hit. Unlike some of Amazon’s past tries at hardware, including the Fire phone, Echo has become so popular that Amazon sold out of the Internet-connected appliance, which retails for $180. Amazon started selling more Echo devices in April, quickly sold out again, and then started shipping again in June.
“We are thrilled that tens of thousands of developers are already building skills for Alexa, helping to grow our Alexa skill selection by 50% 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 unit. “This is a win for developers and for customers, and we can’t wait to hear what they think.
Amazon revealed this week that some of the most popular Alexa skills are Jeopardy, Daily Affirmation, Magic 8 Ball, Fitbit, and The Bartender.
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Amazon is putting a lot of resources into Alexa and Echo as the company looks to fend off competition from Google and possibly Apple. Earlier this month, Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos said that more than 1,000 people are working on Alexa’s technology, and he believes Alexa will become the fourth pillar of Amazon’s business, adding to Amazon Prime, its cloud business Amazon Web Services, and its online retail marketplace.