Amazon opens up Alexa to commercial device makers with new developer tools

Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo and Echo Dot speakers. (Amazon Photo)

Amazon is taking the next step in a mission to spread its digital brain Alexa in as many ways as possible, introducing a new set of tools to help commercial device makers build the technology into their products.

The new Device SDK rounds out Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service, which gives device makers access to hardware development kits, APIs and documents to integrate Alexa into their products. The new tools have been in an invite-only preview with about 50 companies recently, and today’s announcement makes them available, for free, to all commercial device makers.

The new tools include access C++-based libraries that let devices process audio inputs and triggers and handle primary Alexa functions, like speech recognition and synthesis, and secondary capabilities such as streaming media, weather reports and timers and alarms.

Amazon included a tutorial of how to use the new service in a blog post announcing its availability.

Amazon has gained the early lead in the voice market, a trend that can be partially attributed to the company’s decision to open the digital brain up to developers and device manufacturers in 2015. The Alexa Skills Kit encourages third-party developers to build skills for Alexa. Developers who want to add to Alexa’s abilities can write code that works with Alexa in the cloud, letting the smart assistant do the heavy lifting of understanding and deciphering spoken commands.

Developers have responded, and Alexa had more than 15,000 capabilities as of the end of June.

Amazon also opened up what amounts to Alexa’s ears, her 7-Mic Voice Processing Technology, to third party hardware makers who want to build the digital brain into their devices. Amazon opened up Amazon Lex, the artificial intelligence technology that powers Alexa to developers.