Amazon’s Alexa voice tech is now available to build chatbots

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Amazon is making its voice-control technology available to all, giving developers access to the same tools that power its digital assistant Alexa. The platform is called Amazon Lex, and bundles in both speech recognition, text recognition, and conversational interactions. It was first announced in a “preview phase” in late 2016, but according to a new report from Reuters, is now rolling out to all developers.

Amazon Lex will allow tech companies to quickly make voice or text-based chat interfaces for their apps, making them interactive in the same way as Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant. A lot of big Silicon Valley firms have seen an opportunity in selling these sorts of easy-to-use AI tools, and both Google and Microsoft also offer their own suite of similar services.


Image: Amazon
An example of how Lex could be used to create a chat interface.

But for Amazon, this isn’t just about making money in the short term — the company also wants its tech to be the dominant voice computing platform. The Echo was a surprise hit for Amazon, and the company has moved to capitalize on its lead; putting Alexa into a wide range of devices from lamps and speakers to clocks and cars. Giving developers access to Amazon Lex will help the company continue to colonize this space.

Making its AI tools widely available also has the benefit of channeling extra training data back to Amazon to improve Alexa. This sort of real-world feedback is invaluable for building AI tools. And although Amazon is estimated to have sold more than 10 million Echo devices, Apple and Google have access to much, much bigger pool of testers in the form of hundreds of millions of iPhone and Android users.

As Amazon’s CTO Werner Vogels told Reuters: “There’s massive acceleration happening here. The cool thing about having this running as a service in the cloud instead of in your own data center or on your own desktop is that we can make Lex better continuously by the millions of customers that are using it.”

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