The Amazon Echo (along with its associated vocal transducer/artificial intelligence Alexa), that served as the forerunner to Google Home by several years, is beginning to be overshadowed by Alexa-based speakers.
An Alexa speaker can be acquired in rather manageable sizes such as the Echo (2nd Generation) Smart Speaker with Alexa which stands under 6 inches in height. These are compact devices capable of providing its user with 360-degree sound. Currently, the voice assistant’s makers are trying to put her to use in numerous related fields.
Amazon has been working on designing and producing a variety of System Dev Kits (SDK’s) which Amazon itself has defined as “end-to-end system reference designs for creating products with Alexa built-in.” Examples of some SDK’s include products like special earpieces and the Alexa Smart Screen.
Over 3,000 of Amazon’s employees are currently invested in developing Alexa and the products associated with it. The company plans on their Alexa line to only continue to grow. Via the Alexa Fund (launched in 2015), Amazon has been able to extend its Alexa-based assets beyond the confines of its own company. The money in the fund is intended to be used toward giving certain tech startups a helping hand.
However, some startups have grown wary over the prospect of accepting the assistance of the giant tech and sales company. The cause for alarm may be grounded in the example of a past startup which took advantage of the Alexa Fund. This was Nucleus, a company which has worked on developing its primary product and namesake which they call “a family communication device that connects you with the people you love…” They explain Nucleus is the first touchscreen to employ Alexa.
Despite this seemingly chummy relationship Nucleus has with Amazon, the CEO of Nucleus, Jonathan Frankel, expressed indignation in May 2017, saying that the then newly-released Amazon product Echo Show was strikingly similar to a pre-existing product from Nucleus.
However, Amazon responded with the statement that there is a “firewall” between the Alexa Fund and Amazon’s developers. This simply means there is a barrier in place for blocking unauthorized breaching into either party’s information.
Eugene Kim of CNBC, after doing some research, has labeled the fund “a double-edged sword for startups receiving money from it.” Regardless of the somewhat sketchy idea the public has of what is going on behind the scenes at the Alexa Fund, numerous startups have partnered with Amazon through it. The digital startup landscape is now seeing Alexa’s use flowering up everywhere.
As a result of such team-ups, the voice assistant AI has been incorporated into many start-ups’ services. Mark Webster, CEO of Sayspring (an Adobe-owned company producing hardware interfaces for Alexa and Google Assistant), informed Crunchbase News this month that Alexa is currently accessed and used on about 30 million devices. Eight Sleep, a unique bed mattress startup, was able to add Alexa into the designs of some of its smart mattresses.
Alexa is also finding a good use in the user experience end of product fulfillment companies. MistoBox, a direct to consumer coffee startup, is one such company. Alexa allows the purchasers to easily check when their next order is due and what the amount/type of coffee they bought was. Startups will likely continue to be supported by the Alexa Fund, and we can expect to see Alexa appearing in countless more services in the future.