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Amazon Makes Its Echo Far-Field Voice Recognition Technology Available To Third-Party Developers, But Why?

14 April 2017, 8:12 am EDT By Carl Velasco Tech Times
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Amazon announced that it will let third-party developers and hardware manufacturers know the secrets to building Echo devices, along with the technologies built inside it. But don’t get excited yet.  ( Amazon )

Amazon has had success in the voice technology sphere with its proprietary Alexa technology, which is predominantly found on its Echo line of smart speakers.

These devices can recognize commands from its owners even when they're relatively issuing it from a far distance. This is thanks to the company's combination of far-field voice recognition technology and complicated processing knowhow, with Alexa performing its internal acrobatics, trying to determine one's voice commands, muffled as they may be.

That knowhow will soon be made available to others. Amazon is letting third-party developers and hardware manufacturers in on its voice technology smarts, it announced Thursday, April 13.

It's no secret that Alexa is a very capable voice technology — it's really good at listening, understanding, and then delivering. Amazon wants that capability, with results intact, to be leveraged by other companies.

Amazon Wants Third-Parties In On The Alexa Party

"Since the introduction of Amazon Echo and Echo Dot, device makers have been asking us to provide the technology and tools to enable a far-field Alexa experience for their products," Priya Abani, Amazon's director of Alexa, said, detailing the kinds of technology it'll open to developers, including beamforming technology and voice processing software, among others. "It's never been easier for device makers to integrate Alexa and offer their customers world-class voice experiences."

The move will allow companies to extrapolate and build upon its far-field microphone array and voice processing technology, with the upshot of third-parties being able to bake Alexa into their own voice-enabled products in the future.

How Echo And Alexa Works Together

The current Echo setup features seven microphones and a complex audio processing system, the combination of which helps Alexa performs its job well. The seven microphones handle omnidirectional voice input, while the company's noise reduction, echo cancellation, and wake word recognition software attempts to decode the commands and deliver exactly what users are looking for. This will all become available to developers soon.

The Echo range of devices are useful household companions, and it's no wonder why they're the smart speakers of choice, even as Amazon's rival Google promotes its similar speaker called Home, which is also pretty capable in its own right.

Sorry, Amazon's Echo Development Kit Is Invite-Only

Amazon's won't throw its development kit willy-nilly, however, so don't get excited yet. It's instead being reserved for "commercial device manufacturers through an exclusive, invite-only program," so Amazon will presumably screen interested companies for credentials first before they can get their hands on the development kit. This is, however, for the time being. In the meantime, users can still request to be invited and hope Amazon gives the go-signal.

At any rate, this will only expedite the process of developing products that come with Alexa support, and the technology might even improve, now with other brains involved. It's a wise move for Amazon, because it'll make things easier and more cost-effective. Companies will no longer have to look for spare parts, try to replicate a technology similar to Alexa, and peruse for hacked solutions. They can go straight up to Amazon and just ask.

Thoughts about Amazon's decision to open its roster of technologies powering the Echo line of devices? What do you think will this result in? Feel free to sound off in the comments section below!

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