Developers can now use the artificial intelligence (AI) technology powering Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa to build chatbots, as the company strives to lead the voice-controlled computing industry.
Amazon Lex provides deep learning functionalities such as automatic speech recognition and natural language understanding to enable developers to build apps “with highly engaging user experiences and lifelike conversational interactions,” according to its website.
The company believes such features “are some of the most challenging problems to solve in computer science, requiring sophisticated deep learning algorithms to be trained on massive amounts of data and infrastructure” and believes it can democratise them with the new service.
Amazon Lex can be used to build chatbots for everyday consumer requests such as accessing news updates, game scores and weather. These bots can be deployed on smartphones, chat services, and IoT devices, with support for rich message formatting.
Reuters reported the service was in a preview phase since late 2016 and quoted CTO Werner Vogels as saying: “The cool thing about having this running as a service in the cloud instead of in your own data centre or on your own desktop is that we can make Lex better continuously by the millions of customers that are using it.”
The advantage to Amazon of this service is it will have access to a lot more data than it is currently able to collect through Alexa devices, of which it has sold around 10 million. In contrast, Apple’s sales of Siri-enabled devices number in the millions.
Collection of data is key to improving the technology behind such voice assistants.
Gene Munster, an analyst at Loup Ventures, told Reuters: “Voice is a big part of the computer interface of the future… Whoever owns voice will be the gateway of commerce.”