|Initial release||November 2014|
iOS 8.0 or later;
|Size||4.6 MB (iOS), 3.0 MB (Android)|
|Available in||English, German|
|Website||Amazon Appstore Download Link|
Alexa is an intelligent personal assistant developed by Amazon.com's Lab126, made popular by the Echo. She is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic and other real time information. Alexa can also control several smart devices using itself as a home automation hub. Most devices with Alexa allow users to activate the device using a wake-word (such as Echo), other devices require you to push a button in order to activate listening-mode. Currently, interaction and communication with Alexa is only available in English and German.
In November 2014, Amazon announced Alexa alongside Echo. The goal of Alexa was inspired by the computer voice and conversational system known from Star Trek TNG. The name Alexa was chosen due to the fact that it has a hard consonant with the X and therefore could be recognized with higher precision. But it also has a reminiscent of the Library of Alexandria. In June 2015, Amazon announced Alexa Fund, a program that would invest in companies making voice control skills and technologies. The US$100M in funds has invested in companies including Ecobee, Orange Chef, Scout Alarm, Garageio, Toymail, MARA, and Mojio. In 2016 the Alexa Prize was announced to advance the technology.
A companion app is available from the Apple App Store, Google Play, and Amazon Appstore. The app can be used by owners of Alexa-enabled devices to install skills, control music, manage alarms, and view shopping lists. A web interface is also available to set-up compatible devices.
Alexa offers weather reports provided by AccuWeather and news provided by TuneIn from a variety of sources including local radio stations, NPR, and ESPN . Additionally, Alexa supported devices stream music the from owner's Amazon Music accounts and has built-in support for the Pandora and Spotify accounts. Alexa can play music from streaming services such as Apple Music, and Google Play Music from a phone or tablet. Alexa can manage voice-controlled alarms, timers, shopping and to-do lists and can access Wikipedia articles. Alexa devices will respond to your questions about items in your Google calendar. It also integrates with Yonomi, Philips Hue, Belkin Wemo, SmartThings, Wink, Insteon, IFTTT, ecobee, and Nest Thermostats. As of November 2016, the Alexa Appstore had over 5,000 skills available for users to download, up from 1,000 skills in June 2016.
Alexa Skills Kit
Amazon allows developers to build and publish skills for Alexa using the Alexa Skills Kit. These skills are 3rd-party developed voice experiences that add to the capabilities of any Alexa-enabled device (such as the Echo). These skills are available for free download using the Alexa app. Examples of skills include the ability to play music, answer general questions, set an alarm, order a pizza, get an Uber, and more. Skills are continuously being added to increase the capabilities available to the user. The Alexa Skills Kit is a collection of self-service APIs, tools, documentation and code samples that make it fast and easy for any developer to add skills to Alexa. Developers can also use the "Smart Home Skill API", a new addition to the Alexa Skills Kit, to easily teach Alexa how to control cloud-controlled lighting and thermostat devices. All of the code runs in the cloud – nothing is on any user device. A developer can follow tutorials to learn how to quickly build voice experiences for their new and existing applications.
On November 30, 2016 Amazon announced that they will make the speech recognition and natural language processing technology behind Alexa available for developers under the name of Amazon Lex. This new service would allow developers to create their own chatbots that can interact in a conversational manner, similar to Alexa. Along with the connection to various Amazon services, the initial version will provide connectivity to Facebook Messenger, with Slack and Twilio integration to follow.
There are concerns about the access Amazon has to private conversations in the home and other non-verbal indications that can identify who is present in the home with non-stop audio pick-up from Alexa-enabled devices. Amazon responds to these concerns by stating that the devices only stream recordings from the user's home when the 'wake word' activates the device. The device is technically capable of streaming voice recordings at all times, and in fact will always be listening to detect if a user has uttered the wake word.
Amazon uses past voice recordings sent to the cloud service to improve response to future questions the user may pose. To address privacy concerns, the user can delete voice recordings that are currently associated with the user's account, but doing so may degrade the user's experience using search functions. To delete these recordings, the user can visit the Manage My Device page on Amazon.com or contact Amazon customer service.
Alexa uses an address stored in the companion app when it needs a location. Amazon and third-party apps and websites use location information to provide location-based services and store information to provide voice services, the Maps app, Find Your Device, and to monitor the performance and accuracy of location services. For example, Echo voice services use the user's location to respond to the user's requests for nearby restaurants or stores. Similarly, Alexa uses the user's location to process the user's mapping-related requests and improve the Maps experience. All information collected is subject to the Amazon.com Privacy Notice.
Amazon retains digital recordings of users audio spoken after the "wake up word," and while the audio recordings are subject to demands by law enforcement, government agents, and other entities via subpoena, Amazon publishes some information about the warrants it receives, the subpoenas it receives, and some of the warrant-less demands it receives, allowing customers some indication as to the percentage of illegal demands for customer information it receives.
- Amazon Echo
- Amazon Echo Dot
- Amazon Tap
- Amazon Fire TV (2nd generation)
- Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet (2016 version)
- Invoxia Triby
- LG SmartThinQ Hub
- TCL Xess tablet
- Nucleus Anywhere Intercom
- Fabriq smart speaker
- Pebble Core
- iMCO CoWatch
- Omate Rise Smartwatch
- Omate Yumi Robot
- Roger (app)
- EchoSim (website)
In September 2016, a university student competition called the Alexa Prize was announced for November of that year. The goal of the award is to advance conversational AI through voice. The price is equipped with a total of $2.5 million and teams and their universities can win cash and research grants. The process starts with a team selection in 2016, final award will be announced in 2017. The 2017 inaugural competition focuses on the challenge of building a socialbot that can converse coherently and engagingly with humans on popular topics for 20 minutes. This is similar to the Loebner Prize, but with higher prize money.
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- Amazon Alexa Web Portal
- Alexa Skills Store on Amazon.com
- Alexa Compatible Devices on Amazon.com
- Amazon Alexa for Developers
- Amazon Alexa on iTunes Preview
- Amazon Alexa on Google Play