Amazon has fired another salvo in the virtual assistant wars by opening up access to the far-field voice recognition technology found in its Echo smart speakers so that third-party manufacturers can make their own versions (via BBC).

The move comes as Amazon attempts to spread the use of its Alexa virtual assistant across a wide range of connected products and take ownership of a larger portion of the growing smart devices market. Google announced its branded Home smart speaker in November, while Apple is also rumored to be planning a similar Siri-enabled device this year.

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The initially invite-only access to the technology via the Alexa Voice Service program will give manufacturers the right to replicate the Echo's seven-microphone array that allows the speakers to hear a voice command from across the room.

The access also means third-party developers can use the proprietary algorithms used for wake-word recognition, which focus the array on the owner's voice and filter out echoes and other noises. Developers will be provided with a reference kit as a starting point for their own designs, and the freedom to source components from a range of parts manufacturers.

"Our vision is for Alexa to be everywhere, and that means making it available to other companies and services to integrate into a wide range of devices," said an Amazon spokesperson.

"We expect Alexa to be in many devices over time, including products that compete with Echo, which is why we're investing in making a wide range of hands-free and far-field reference solutions available to OEMs [original equipment manufacturers]."

Amazon's rollout of Alexa has gained steam ever since CES 2017 in January, when the virtual assistant cropped up in a range of products including third-party smart speakers, cars, TVs, lamps, and even refrigerators.

In February Amazon announced it was extending third-party support for its Alexa Voice Service (AVS) internationally, and last month it added its Siri competitor to the company's iOS app, allowing users to search Amazon, track orders, play music, and start audio books from Audible.

Top Rated Comments

Kabeyun Avatar
67 months ago
I like a lot of Apple stuff, but my experience is that Siri is nearly useless. It boggles my mind how they're pushing it everywhere before it actually works. Siri fails both on the input end (you can't even recognize one of my established contacts?) and on the output end (how about finding the accurate location near me rather than the similar-sounding one across the country in Nevada? And maybe answer my question instead of referring me to the Web). AI has moved beyond setting a timer ('https://youtu.be/_brGtcrcM9w'), and it seems like Apple is being handily beaten while they keep doubling down on a crappy feature which is training me not to use it.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
macs4nw Avatar
67 months ago
Smart, strategic, pre-emptive move by Amazon. Third-party participation should give Alexa and the Echo a big boost.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
CarpalMac Avatar
67 months ago
I don't want an always on microphone in my place, disabled siri on my iPhone.
What does it add, I prefer privacy over convenience.
I keep seeing people come onto public internet forums for tell us all how much you value their privacy. I'll wager most have Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Whatsapp account(s) and surf without using a VPN or cookie blockers.

Personally I love the convenience of Alexa, comfortable that I as only a single anonymised source of data, am not that interesting.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
justperry Avatar
67 months ago
I don't want an always on microphone in my place, disabled siri on my iPhone.
What does it add, I prefer privacy over convenience.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
MrGimper Avatar
67 months ago
Great smart move. Even before this you could run Alexa on a Pi, and this just opens it up more.

Personally, I think Siri is a bigger fail than Apple Maps... at least they've sorted that out over time.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Nunyabinez Avatar
67 months ago
The Urban Dictionary first result:
"Lone wolf is a term commanly used by many people. It means that they used to belong to a group and left to become stronger."

In response to the above posts, I too value privacy over convenience. Although I have gmail, outlook, icloud email, facebook, i have facebook deactivated. I also run my own linux email server, i have my own vpn, i use encryption, i turn off location privilages, i removed webcams and mics from my iphone SE. if it breaks and apple only sells unibody iphones, i will stop buying iphones. i dont use skype, hangouts, apple messages, apple pay, uber, very little amazon: mostly for software, i dont use windows 10 or os x.

The people I know that own these, in my honest experience, they all vote democrat in every election, they live in california and denver and honestly claim to spend like $20,000 on uber. They were all really confused when trump won. i expected him to.

I dont plan to ever use one of these devices. besides, every time i see someone try to call their local pizza place through siri, it takes like 2-3 tries.

i could find it on google faster if i wanted, but i already have the number memorized.

I find it in rather poor taste that people like satya nadella got paid 18 million just for 2016s compensation, while most people float around the poverty line. I havent seen anything innovative come out from silicon valley in over a decade. But i get how the game works.
It's a good thing that you do and don't do all of that. I don't use a vpn, have Facebook, use Google, Windows 10 and MacOS.

Your diligence has prevented you from having all the horrible things happen to you that have happened to me. Oh...wait...
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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