Amazon wants its Alexa digital voice assistant integrated into more devices.
But in order to do this, it needs help from third-party hardware makers. That’s why the company debuted new software on Thursday that is intended to make it easier for device manufactures to embed Alexa in their products.
“Our vision is for Alexa to be everywhere,” said Priya Abani, Amazon’s director and general manager of Alexa voice services. “We are not going to manufacture every single device on the face of the Earth.”
Amazon is pushing Alexa, the brains inside Amazon’s Echo Internet-connected speaker, as one of the key elements in electronic devices of the future. The company’s ambitions, however, face a stiff challenge from competing digital voice assistants like Apple’s (aapl) Siri and Google (goog) Assistant.
Amazon’s new open source, or free, software toolkit builds on past efforts to encourage manufactures to add Alexa to their products. Previously, Amazon released its Alexa Voice Service (AVS) that connects its voice-recognition software, hosted in the company’s cloud data centers, to devices in addition to introducing hardware toolkits and blueprints that companies could use to help build their Alexa-integrated products.
But despite those efforts, companies still had to manually modify software installed on their devices before those products could connect properly. The latest push, called AVS Device Software Development Kit, eliminates that step and, therefore, makes Alexa more attractive to integrate and, potentially, clears the path to creating better Alexa-based products, Abani explained.
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Some of third-party Alexa-based products offer customers an “experience that isn’t what end-users were expecting,” Abani acknowledged.
Alexa’s failure to recognize a user’s voice or follow through on a command on a third-party devices risk tarnishing Amazon’s reputation and prompting manufacturers to switch to integrating competing voice assistants instead. Providing Amazon-sanctioned software to outside hardware makers to install and build on top of could make Alexa function more smoothly on more third-party products.
Amazon said that over 50 companies are already using the new software toolkit on their devices, including entertainment and communications technology company Technicolor, which embedded Alexa into its modems and other home networking gear. People who own the devices can use their voices to configure their home networks.