Amazon opens door to conversational apps from brands
- Amazon Web Services has opened up Amazon Lex, the voice technology that fuels the Alexa platform, to all cloud computing customers, according to a press release. The unlocking of Amazon Lex means developers can insert talking virtual assistants into chat services such as Facebook Messenger, Twilio or Slack.
- Until now, Amazon noted few developers were able to build apps with the automatic speech recognition and natural language understanding that characterizes Amazon Lex. With the company's move, developers can construct apps containing speaking aides to check the weather, book travel, order food and perform a plethora of other tasks.
- Amazon specified Capital One, Freshdesk, Hubspot, Liberty Mutual, Ohio Health, Vonage and the American Heart Association have already tapped Amazon Lex for conversational apps. The American Heart Association used Amazon Lex’s AI technology to ease its registration process for Heart Walk events, and Freshdesk harnessed it to provide personalized customer service.
AI is venturing across the consumer and marketing landscape, and Amazon is aiming to be a key driver in its spread. Amazon Alexa and its related products such as Echo are doing so by entering people’s homes — millions of Alexa devices have sold — but Amazon has a much bigger vision for its voice technology careening across industries and into corners of the digital universe that the company might otherwise not touch or touch infrequently. In creeping into those corners, it hopes to outmaneuver its voice competitors Siri at Apple, Bixby at Samsung and Assistant at Google.
Winning the voicebot battle can have enormous implications for business as more consumers use their voice and not their fingers to engage online. Propelling e-commerce is a big play, a strategy befitting Amazon’s core competency. It’s already possible to shop products sold on Amazon, discover nearby restaurants and request Uber or Lyft rides from Alexa. The opening up of Amazon Lex will likely thrust Amazon's voice capabilities into untold areas of commerce. The revenue potential is impactful. RBC Capital Markets has estimated Alexa could generate $10 billion for Amazon by 2020 from device sales and voice orders.
The news follows Amazon's recent release of a development kit for the hardware and software that powers its Echo devices' voice recognition. Together, these two developments have the potential to help Alexa boost its position as the dominant voice assistant if enough manufacturers and developers jump on board.
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