Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa was the topic of the first “Mornings with Amazon” meeting in High Tech Campus Eindhoven, which took place on July 3rd. Amazon Alexa EMEA Evangelist, Max Amordeluso, delivered a presentation about the voice assistant technology, followed up with a session for developers interested in receiving hands-on experience of building simple Alexa “skills” – the equivalent of apps for Amazon voice assistant.
Virtual assistants with voice interface technology, still with a taste of innovation, are becoming more and more usual. “Voice interface is the new opportunity – disruption in computing,” says Max Amordeluso. “Graphical interface was once revolutionary but with the graphical interface only in order to create a shopping list you need to take many small steps, whereas with voice assistant this is done in a quick and more natural way.” Currently, the most popular voice assistants in the U.S. are Apple’s Siri (46,5% of the market), Google Assistant (27,8%) and Amazon Alexa (13,2%). However, when it comes to the smart speakers with integrated voice-assistant, Amazon Echo is the product that American users choose most frequently, the second popular smart speaker is Google Home. According to the Smart Speaker Market Forecast 2018-2023, the rising popularity of connected homes will boost the demand for smart speakers; the competition level in the smart speakers market will be intensified.
Competing with other vendors, Amazon is bringing its voice assistant technology into more and more spheres of daily life. Not long ago Lennar – American housing manufacturer – in partnership with Amazon made built-in Alexa-enabled devices a standard feature of Lennar’s new houses. Alexa has come into hospitality business as well: together with Marriott International, Amazon has launched a program called Alexa for Hospitality, which brings the voice assistant technology to hotels and rentals.
The question of Alexa users’ privacy was brought up during the “Mornings with Amazon” meeting. How secure are the Alexa-enabled devices? Alexa has multiple levels of privacy: the mute button on the device, visual feedback indicating recording, the usage of the wake word (“Alexa”) for the device activation and the possibility to delete the voice recordings from the app history any time. In addition to this, actions like purchasing goods with Alexa’s assistance require a PIN.
Devices with Alexa are designed to be shared by a group of people and that is why Alexa can recognize the voices of different users and to specialize the available tools accordingly. Personalized experience of users is created with the set of skills that can be added to Alexa devices. This year Amazon has launched the platform for developers interested in building Alexa’s skills – Alexa Skills Kit encouraging the developers to try their hand in Alexa skills creation.
Amazon’s Alexa technology is not limited to the usage in Amazon products – Alexa Voice Service is available to third-party developers who can embed it into all kinds of smart home devices. Amordeluso: “For example, one can integrate Alexa in a cane for the blind users or in a fridge – to manage the food stock at home with voice. There are many ways in which developers can be creative with Alexa technology.”