Amazon on Thursday announced that they intend to make the hardware found in their Amazon Echo connected speakers available to third-party manufacturers. The Amazon Alexa 7-Mic Far-Field Development Kit will make it easy for developers to enable the Alexa home assistant in their own products, the company claims. The Echo is a smart speaker that connects to Amazon's virtual personal assistant service, Alexa. The speaker is voice-activated and listens constantly for the wake word "Alexa." It is capable of voice interaction, as well as a whole host of other uses such as playing music, making to-do lists, playing audiobooks, and providing real-time information such as traffic and weather updates.
The software behind Alexa has been available to developers for a while now through Amazon's Alexa Voice Service (AVS) kit. Alexa technology has been integrated into many Amazon's products and was recently introduced into the official Amazon app for iOS, meaning users can now order products by simply speaking to their device. The further introduction of the hardware kit means device manufacturers will be able to design "always-listening" gadgets like the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot. The technology includes the same 7-microphone array, along with other features such as noise cancellation and wake word recognition, beamforming, and echo cancellation. Amazon's Echo and Echo Dot which connect to the voice-activated Alexa are now quite popular in their segment, although most industry watchers were skeptical when Amazon's first Internet-enabled speaker first became widely available in the United States two years ago.
The Amazon Alexa 7-Mic Far-Field Development Kit is currently only available through an invite program for commercial device manufacturers. OEMs can visit Amazon's Developer pages to request an invite for a limited time, the company said. Shortly before Amazon announced the availability of their latest hardware kit, rumors emerged that Apple is currently working on a similar device to rival Amazon's Echo, dubbed the "Siri-speaker," which may feature facial recognition technology. It's understood that Amazon is offering the hardware strictly through invites to allow the company to be selective about the partners it works with and ensure that Alexa's best features are enhanced and highlighted on all compatible products.