Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) is making its smart assistant technology Alexa available to developers. At its cloud conference, the Seattle-based company announced the launch of Amazon Lex, the cloud technology that powers Alexa. It has been available to developers in a pilot trial since November last year.
In an interview with Reuters, Werner Vogels, chief technology officer at Amazon, said that the tool could be used by developers to build conversational chatbots, or automated bots that can resolve common customer queries through conversation. Alexa is notable for its capabilities in processing massive amounts of data and synthesizing speech-to-text and vice versa. Developers will be charged based on the number of voice or text messages that are processed by their applications. (See also: Amazon Might Soon Be Answering Call Center Queries.)
Vogels said that the benefit of running Alexa in the cloud was that "we can make Lex better continuously by the millions of customers that are using it." At a conference last year, Amazon demonstrated a third-party application that used Alexa's backend to manage flight bookings using voice. Amazon also offers Alexa-only shopping deals for customers to encourage purchases through the device. (See also: Amazon's Alexa Delivers Prime Now Orders in 2 Hours.)
This is the second such announcement regarding Alexa in as many months. Earlier, the company released the Alexa Skills Kit, which enables third-party hardware makers to integrate Alexa into their devices. (See also: Amazon Releases Alexa Development Kit.)
By open sourcing Alexa's skills and technology, the company is aiming for widespread proliferation of the smart assistant. It has already taken a lead over rival devices, such as Alphabet Inc. (GOOG) subsidiary Google's smart assistant as well as Microsoft Corporation's (MSFT) Cortana, by tying up with established brands for new devices. The more devices that have Alexa, the more data the company will be able to gather about user habits, and the more customized its offerings for customers will become. Amazon has not divulged the number of Alexa devices it has sold. However, estimates peg that number at approximately 10 million or so. (See also: Amazon Pleads First Amendment Rights for Alexa.)