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article imageAmazon opens Echo smart speaker tech to every developer

By James Walker     Apr 13, 2017 in Technology
Amazon has announced it's making the voice recognition tech inside its Alexa-powered Echo speaker available to developers building on the Alexa platform. It'll improve the voice input capabilities of third-party Alexa products, developing the ecosystem.
Amazon will grant developers using its Alexa development kit access to its 7-microphone far-field voice detection system featured in all its Echo speakers. The unique microphone setup offers a highly optimised way for smart devices to detect a user's voice from across a room or other open space.
The new reference kit for manufacturers includes the physical microphone array found in the Echo and Amazon's complete software for always-on voice recognition, noise reduction, echo cancellation and beamforming. In less technical terms, developers have everything they need to add the Echo's successful voice recognition tech to their own products.
With developers able to use Amazon's existing, widely praised system, the company is evidently hoping more third-party devices will include the feature. This will improve the cohesion of the Alexa ecosystem and make the experience more seamless for users.
With far-field listening, you can trigger a voice search while sitting in front of the TV or cooking dinner. The inconvenience of reaching over to press a button or walking closer to the speaker is removed, something Amazon hopes will convince more users to give home automation a try.
By opening its previously proprietary microphone system to more developers, Amazon can incentivise hardware creators to add far-field capabilities to their products. Companies no longer need to invest in developing their own systems, making it more likely far-field voice recognition will be included. Customers can shop for products knowing they can all be used to trigger Alexa from anywhere in a room, making the ecosystem appear more attractive.
"With this new reference solution, developers can design products with the same unique 7-mic circular array, beamforming technology, and voice processing software that have made Amazon Echo so popular with customers," said Amazon Alexa director Priya Abani. "It’s never been easier for device makers to integrate Alexa and offer their customers world-class voice experiences."
In making this technology available to third-party developers, Amazon also has another talking point with which to sway companies unsure whether they should invest in the platform. By cutting out a substantial portion of the work required to build a compelling smart device, it could convince a manufacturer not to opt for integration with a rival digital assistant.
Although Amazon is talking about making the technology more open, it will actually be retaining a tight hold over who can access the development kit. It'll be available to commercial device manufacturers who are already building Alexa products as part of an invite-only program. Companies can sign up online to request an invite and start building using the technology.
More about Amazon, Alexa, amazon echo, amazon alexa, Voice recognition
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