Amazon, the eCommerce giant, announced news on Wednesday (Nov. 8) that Alexa and Echo are now available by invitation only in Japan.
In a press release, the online retailer said that developers can now use the Alexa Skills Kit to create Japanese Alexa experiences. They’ll soon be able to use the Amazon Alexa Voice Service to integrate Alexa into products for Japanese shoppers.
“Tens of millions of customers already love Alexa, and we’re thrilled to introduce her to our customers in Japan today, with an all-new experience designed from the ground up for Japanese customers, including a new Japanese voice, local knowledge and over 250 skills from Japanese developers,” said Tom Taylor, senior vice president, Amazon Alexa, in the press release. “We’re also excited to expand the Alexa Skills Kit and the Alexa Voice Service, so developers and hardware makers around the world can create Alexa experiences for our Japanese customers.”
Amazon said the Echo devices powered by Alexa will start shipping in Japan next week.
In recent weeks, Amazon has been in expansion mode for its Echo line of devices. In October, the eCommerce company announced its products were available in India by invitation only.
The news comes as Amazon recently refreshed its line of Echo devices ahead of the holiday shopping season. Late last month, the company debuted the new Echo, which will sell for $99, and the Echo Plus, which will be priced at $150. The newest Echo includes the latest update to the Alex-powered speaker, covering regular Echo functions and acting as a smart hub for various internet-connected devices within a user’s household.
The new Echo boasts an improved interior with an upgraded speaker system intended to enhance sound quality. The Echo Plus also includes “second-generation voice-recognition technology,” along with seven microphones, beamforming technology and noise cancellation so Alexa can hear users’ commands from anywhere, even when music is playing. When Alexa Voice Services hears the instruction, “Alexa, discover devices,” the Plus will be able to “see” and link to nearby smart light bulbs, security cameras and appliances.