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Amazon allowing Alexa software, far-field microphone technology use by other companies

Amazon's core hardware and software technologies that it uses in its Alexa voice recognition products are available for use for free by hardware manufacturers —but not to everyone.




Amazon is inviting key participants to use the technologies behind Alexa according to BBC News, which include the far-field microphone array technology, as well as the algorithms involved in voice recognition and owner's voice identification. Apple is unlikely to be invited to use the technology, given that the offer appears intended to combat Google's similar approach to the home assistant market.

The Alexa core technology minus the microphone hardware, is in a handful of third-party products now. Compared to Amazon's own devices, the offerings are more expensive, perform worse, or both.

Amazon's offer to share Alexa-specific technology includes reference hardware, development software, and the freedom to source components for developed devices from a range of manufacturers selected by Amazon.

"Our vision is for Alexa to be everywhere, and that means making it available to other companies and services to integrate into a wide range of devices," an Amazon Spokesman said. "We expect Alexa to be in many devices over time, including products that compete with Echo, which is why we're investing in making a wide range of hands-free and far-field reference solutions available to OEMs."

The Alexa technology debuted in November 2014 with the Amazon Echo. Activated by a user-assignable key word, which is set to "Alexa" by default, Echo can fetch information from the Web, play music, set alarms and conduct basic PDA functions like updating a to-do list.

Amazon takes a different approach to voice recognition technologies. The company believes that free-standing speakers are the best way to implement the technology. Its attempt to launch a smartphone encapsulating the technology failed dramatically in 2015.

In a report from February, Time magazine, citing discussions with Apple executives claimed that Apple has "no apparent interest" in replicating the Alexa family of devices. Apple intent appears to be using Siri as an "omnipresent AI assistant across devices" rather than have a central hub.

Apple is also rumored to be developing an improved version of Siri that could launch later in 2017 alongside an expected Fall iOS hardware refresh. The purchase of machine learning startup Perceptio and vocal processing company VocalIQ appear to be aimed at improving Apple's voice recognition offering as well.

Amazon's Alexa has recently arrived on the iPhone, in the e-retailer's official app.