August 21, 2017
Amazon is going full bore promoting its virtual assistant Alexa. In an effort to make it available on more devices, the company has debuted the Alexa Voice Service Device SDK toolset, which lets developers integrate a fully functional version to their devices, offering speech recognition and all the other Alexa capabilities such as notifications, weather reports, streaming media and thousands of voice apps. Amazon is providing additional incentive to developers by paying those whose voice apps demonstrate customer engagement.
TechCrunch reports that the SDK was “previously available in an invite-only developer preview period,” during which “over 50 commercial device makers have been working to add Alexa to their products.” For example, Technicolor added Alexa to its Home Networking Gateway and Extender, and Huawei’s Mate 9 smartphone includes Alexa as an option.
The new SDK, which is available through a free, open source license on GitHub, fits into Amazon’s strategy to “bring Alexa to as many devices as possible.” Other tools include “hardware development kits, APIs, and documentation on how to create Alexa-enabled products.” Some of those products are the Ecobee4 smart thermostat, the Triby Internet radio, and speakers, alarm clocks and smart watches.
VentureBeat states that, “Amazon appears to be the first of the major tech companies with AI assistants and third-party integrations — like Google, Samsung, Apple, and Microsoft — with a program to compensate developers based on engagement created by their voice app.” To measure engagement, Amazon will look at “minutes of usage, new customers, customer ratings, and return visitors.”
Developers in the U.S., U.K. and Germany are eligible, and “developers with a skill active in all three countries will receive separate payments based on engagement in each country.” Developers have already begun making games for Alexa, but Amazon developer evangelist Paul Cutsinger said that “those working in education, food and drink, music, health and fitness, productivity, and lifestyle” are now eligible as well.
The Verge reports that Amazon is also outfitting Arizona State University’s student engineering dorms with 1,600 Echo Dots, in a “program that encourages engineering students to practice voice user interface development skills on consumer hardware.” Students moving into the work/live Tooker House can “opt in to the program and receive an Echo Dot for their dorm room.”
ASU engineering students can also enroll in “one of three upcoming fall courses that teach concepts like voice user interface development, which includes Alexa skills.” By putting the Alexa Skills Kit into students’ hands, Amazon is clearly hopeful that ASU’s engineering students will also build skills, “which can ideally be incorporated into student project programs, or solve needs in the local community.”