What is Alexa?
Alexa is one of the world’s most popular voice assistants — an AI-empowered program that lives on the cloud and users communicate with via speech commands and smart devices. Alexa turns five this year, and Synced takes a look at its rapid rise and where it’s headed.
Market Share and Timeline
According to a CIRP study, Amazon Alexa has a commanding 70 percent market share in the US, with rival Google Assistant taking 24 percent. A Market Research Future study predicts the voice assistant market will reach US$7.8 billion by 2023, a compound annual growth rate of almost 40 percent.
Amazon Lab126 developed Alexa, and Amazon introduced the Alexa-powered smart speaker Echo to the market in 2014. In June 2015, an Alexa Fund was created to invest in companies making voice control skills and technologies. Amazon released Amazon Lex in 2016, enabling developers to use the voice assistant’s advanced speech recognition and natural language processing technology to create their own conversational chatbots. This was a major turning point in the Alexa’s development and deployment.
In January 2017 the first Alexa Conference took place in Nashville, Tennessee; and by September 2017 Amazon had more than 5,000 employees working on Alexa and related products.
Amazon has sold over 100 million Alexa-enabled devices to date.
There are over 50,000 skills on Amazon Alexa and around 20,000 compatible devices worldwide. Alexa owes its popularity to Amazon’s next generation speech synthesis, a neural text-to-speech technology (NTTS) which uses machine learning to quickly generate expressive voices and natural speech.
One of Alexa’s early integrations was with Microsoft’s calling service Skype, which can be conveniently activated through Amazon Alexa devices. Alexa is now also being increasingly integrated with smart devices in a range of IoT applications.
- Smart home: A Home Automation feature was launched in April 2015, enabling developers to create smart home skills using the Alexa Skills Kit.
- TVs: Alexa can control the viewing experience via users’ voice commands for a hands-free home cinema experience.
- Phones and tablets: Alexa is Siri’s main rival on smartphones. More manufacturers are now enabling users to set Alexa as their default digital assistant over Google Assistant.
- Laptops and desktops: Alexa followed Microsoft voice assistant Cortana and Apple’s Siri into the computer arena; providing another platform.
- Earphones: Smart headset users can access Alexa to check the weather, make phone calls, stream music, etc.
- Automotive: Alexa can control in-car navigation and infotainment systems. Alexa can also lock or unlock doors and remotely start some vehicles.
- Others: Alexa can provide flexibility and time-saving options in communication with various other smart home devices.
Amazon wants to continue to build on Alexa’s smart-home capabilities and make it easier for third-party companies to bring compatible devices to market. We can expect an increasing number of hardware companies to announce Alexa integrations this year and in the years ahead. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has identified Alexa as the heart of the tech giant’s strategy going forward, especially in its battle with Google Home for dominance in the IoT market.
Author: Paul Fan | Editor: Michael Sarazen
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