Retail giant Amazon has just announced a big update for developers working on its Alexa platform. The update includes a variety of new capabilities for developers to play with, such as volume and media controls, timers, alarms, and enhancements to the Alexa app, among other new features.
The company said it has also made architectural improvements such as updated APIs and message structures, iOS and Android app support, and the ability to send server-initiated messages.
The Alexa Voice Service (AVS) is an intelligent cloud service that adds voice-enabled capabilities to any product with a microphone and speaker that can be connected to the Internet. The service, along with a developer kit for hardware manufacturers looking to add AVS support to their products, launched last year.
Plug-and-Play Natural Language Understanding
AVS is most famous for its role in the Amazon Echo speaker, a voice-controlled device capable of playing music and responding to requests for information. As with the Echo, third-party devices that have been enabled with AVS will be able to answer general knowledge questions, provide weather forecasts, and bring up articles from Wikipedia. Even better, developers will be able to add AVS to their devices for free.
With the latest update to the developer kit, designers can add voice commands to adjust, mute or unmute the volumes of their Alexa-enabled devices. Developers can also add media playback, allowing users to pause and restart video and music using their voices, and create and manage timers and alarms. Developers working on Android and iOS devices, meanwhile, will have access to the same functionality via the Alexa app.
AVS also allows developers to add natural language understanding to their devices without any prior experience with voice control. “Using AVS, add Alexa to your device in just a few hours,” Amazon said in its description of the updated developer kit. “Leave understanding human speech to us and focus on your differentiated value-add to customers.” The company is also pitching the service as easily scalable, since the cloud-based service requires no hardware provisioning or infrastructure management to work.
Partners on Board
Amazon said it has already started working with hardware developers to add AVS to more products. Wink, a company that sells connected smart-home devices, such as lighting products, security systems, and temperature control systems, has already added AVS to its devices.
“By integrating Alexa into our platform, customers will be able to manage their home -- everything from turning on lights, locking doors, controlling temperature, and opening blinds -- just by asking,” Nathan Smith, CTO of Wink, said in an Amazon statement. “We see huge potential and are excited to make the smart home even more accessible.”
Meanwhile, Scout Alarm, a connected security platform, is also adding AVS capabilities to its products. “Alexa opens new ways for our customers to interact with their security system -- ways not yet seen in our industry,” said Dave Shapiro, CTO at Scout, in the statement.
Image Credit: Screenshot and logo of Amazon Voice Services via Amazon.