Just days after Amazon announced that Amazon Echo, its voice-controlled smart speakers, are now available for everyone to purchase, the eCommerce giant rolled out another big piece of news for voice technology innovation.
Yesterday (June 25), Amazon announced the Alexa Fund, which consists of up to $100 million in new investments to support manufacturers and startups of all sizes that are passionate about creating innovative experiences influenced by the human voice. The name comes from Alexa, which is the cloud-based service that powers Echo. Amazon said the fund is open to anyone wanting to innovate the voice technology space in a way that improves customers’ lives.
“Experiences designed around the human voice will fundamentally improve the way people use technology,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO. “Since introducing Amazon Echo, we’ve heard from developers, manufacturers and startups of all sizes who want to innovate with this new technology. With the Alexa Fund, we want to empower people to explore the boundaries of voice technology. We’re eager to see what they come up with.”
Along with the announcement of the fund, Amazon also launched the Alexa Skills Kit, which is a collection of self-service APIs and tools for developers to add voice-driven skills for the technology. Alexa Voice Service is also available to third-party hardware makers who want to integrate Alexa into their devices.
The brain behind the Amazon Echo, Alexa, is cloud-based, meaning it will continue to gain knowledge and add more functionality as time goes on. Since Echo was first released seven months ago, Alexa has improved its ability to answer questions, enhanced its speech recognition and accuracy and expanded its skill set, Amazon said.
The Alexa Fund is designed to invest in people and companies who want to innovate how voice can improve the way consumers interact with everyday technology. Areas of interest include hardware products for inside or outside the home that would benefit from Alexa’s voice interface, features and functionality for Alexa and contributions to the science behind voice technology, including text-to-speech, natural language understanding and automatic speech recognition.
Innovators selected for funding will receive additional benefits beyond financial support. With established business and technology expertise, Amazon will help them take their ideas from concept to the marketplace by offering tools such as early access to SDK capabilities, hands-on development support for hardware or software, enhanced marketing support on Amazon.com, placement at Amazon showcase events, membership in AWS Activate and more.
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