And suddenly Amazon's Alexa is a platform rather than a device.

amazon echo

Amazon's Echo virtual assistant.

Credit: Amazon

Just yesterday I posted about the Amazon Echo, talking about how Amazon continues to update and add functionality to the device. In particular I pointed out the possibilities that IFTTT support adds.

It seems Amazon is just getting started! Hours after my post hit, the company announced the "Alexa Skills Kit," a free SDK to allow developers to support the Alexa.

(A note on terminology: Amazon now uses "Echo" to refer to the hardware and "Alexa" to refer to the "cloud-based voice service." So think of Alexa in the same way you think of Siri, and Echo in the same way you think of iPhone.)

Right now the SDK is a developer preview but if you're an interested developer you can get started today.

In addition to the SDK, Amazon is now allowing hardware manufactures to incorporate Alexa into their devices. There's no charge to use what is formally known as "Alexa Voice Service." This program isn't quite ready yet but interested users can sign up to be notified when it is.

Amazon also introduced the Alexa Fund: "$100 million in investment to fuel voice technology innovation." Amazon says it'll use the fund to help " ... anyone with an innovative idea for how voice technology can improve customers’ lives." If you think your company or idea qualifies, check out the Alexa Fund website

At this point I'm feeling even better about my investment in the Amazon Echo. I'd love to see someone build an alarm clock with integrated Alexa. Sure, I could buy a second Echo and put it on my bedside table but having a time display would add value, at least for me. That's a pretty obvious idea when it comes to integrating Alexa into hardware; I'm just glad any manufacturer can make it happen, and I can't wait to see what more innovative thinkers come up with!

For more information on these programs you can also check out Amazon's press releases for the Alexa Skills Kit (the SDK), Alexa Voice Service and the Alexa Fund.

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