Amazon Alexa coming to NZ, with $$ for developers

Amazon’s Alexa voice-controlled online service, the Amazon Echo device, and associated products for developers will be available in New Zealand next year.

Amazon’s Alexa voice-controlled online service, the Amazon Echo device, and associated products for developers will be available in New Zealand next year.

The company has also announced a $US100 million venture fund that will look at Alexa-related investments outside the US.

The developer tools are the Alexa Skills Kit, billed as “a collection of self-service APIs and tools that make it fast and easy for developers to create new voice-driven capabilities for Alexa,” and the Alexa Voice Service (AVS), which  “enables developers to integrate Alexa directly into their products, bringing the convenience of voice control to any connected device.”

Amazon says no experience with speech recognition or natural language understanding is required to use the Alexa Skills Kit. “Amazon does all the work to hear, understand and process the customer’s spoken request so a developer doesn’t have to.”

AVS provides developers with access to a suite of resources to “quickly and easily build Alexa-enabled products, including APIs, hardware development kits, software development kits and documentation,” according to Amazon.

Alexa will also have skills from New Zealand developers Air New Zealand, TVNZ, Newstalk ZB, New Zealand Herald, SKY TV and ZM Radio. It says developers in these organisations have received an early preview of ASK and are already building Alexa skills.

Details of the $US100m Alexa venture fund for investment in companies outside the US developing products that work with Alexa were announced by Paul Bernard, Amazon Alexa director of worldwide corporate development, in a blog post on 29 November.

Bernard said the recently completed Alexa Accelerator had drawn applications from more than 50 countries outside the US. He said funded companies also receive “access to a dedicated Amazon team to help each portfolio company develop and succeed on its path to Alexa integration.”

Bernard listed possible Alexa applications as including

- Making daily life easier through the introduction of a voice interface on smart home devices, or that enhance daily activities such as connected play.

 - Extending Alexa outside the home and into cars, wearables, mobile devices, and more.

- Enabling technologies involving the application of new science or deep technology that has the potential to advance the performance of or enable new use cases for voice interaction, such as durable microphones, speech and NLU, robotics, and advanced micro-processor technologies.

- Providing peace of mind: everything from a baby monitor to aging in place, or home security.

Developers can learn more about the Alexa Skills Kit and the Alexa Voice Service here on the Alexa developers’ web site.


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