Makers of smartphone apps and other software now have access to the language processing capabilities of Amazon's Alexa voice assistant, allowing them to take advantage of all that Alexa has learned after years of talking to customers via Amazon's own devices and software.
Amazon is calling its new voice recognition service Lex. In beta testing since last fall, Lex is now available to developers who want to build voice chat features into their products, Reuters reports. It's based on the automatic speech recognition and natural language understanding that already powers everything from the Echo to the Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, not to mention a growing list of third-party devices.
Chatbots of the sort that Lex will power are in high demand from companies that want more opportunities to put their products and services in front of consumers. Microsoft already has its own chatbot ecosystem for Skype, and Facebook recently added more bot features to its Messenger app, including the ability for companies like Delivery.com to analyze conversations for indications that you might be hungry and have its bot suggest ordering food.
Amazon is already a major player in the cloud computing industry, offering companies pay-as-you go access to storage and processing servers. Lex will follow that same model, with developers paying less than one cent for each voice or text processing request. Amazon envisions several use cases, from an automated customer support agent to a bot that can control connected home devices.
In addition to making it easier for developers to create chatbots, Lex will also provide Amazon with an easy way to gather more data to train its algorithms.
"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," Amazon CTO Werner Vogels tells Reuters.
The Lex rollout follows Amazon's announcement last week that it will also offer third-party developers the voice recognition hardware and software used in the Echo. The kit includes a seven-mic circular array, beamforming technology, and voice processing software.