As the traditional search box begins to take a backseat to audio search tools, Amazon broadened its reach in voice services Thursday with a collection of free self-service application program interfaces (APIs) and tools that allow developers to create voice-driven capabilities for smartphones and a variety of Internet-connected devices. AOL, Intuit, and StubHub have already begun building out services.
Voice will power the future, from search across the Web and smartphones, to everyday actions like adjusting sprinkler watering times. Alexa powers Amazon Echo, a new category of device designed around voice services that began in home automation control.
Major companies have begun using Alexa to build services around voice. AOL uses Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) to allow site visitors to listen to the portal's daily news headlines and articles, explains Drew Lesicko, head of mobile product at AOL in a statement. Financial software maker Intuit plans to build a reference implementation using Alexa to access Mint.com, the free Web-based personal financial management service. StubHub, an online marketplace for event tickets, uses the platform to enable customers to purchase tickets using their voice.
Hardware developers can use the Alexa Voice Service (AVS), which becomes available in July, to integrate Alexa into their Internet-connected devices with a few lines of code, and in a few hours can build new experiences designed around voice, per Amazon.
Companies like Wink, Scout Alarm, and Toymail have begun to integrate the technology. The possibilities span across any Internet-connected device. For example, device maker with an Internet-connected sprinkler system can integrate its sprinklers with Alexa, so a customer can say, "Alexa, ask my sprinkler to water my lawn for 15 minutes." Or a fitness service can enable Alexa to access a user's workout history to say "Alexa, ask My Fitness how many miles I have run this week."
Amazon also announced the Alexa Fund, up to $100 million in investments, to support developers, manufacturers, and start-ups passionate about creating new experiences designed around the human voice. The fund is open to anyone with an innovative idea for how voice technology can improve life.