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New Amazon dev kits bring Alexa to mobile accessories and more connected products

The Alexa Mobile Accessory Kit and Alexa Premium Far-Field Voice Development Kit offer developers new opportunities for building products with Alexa integrations.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • The Alexa Mobile Accessory Kit helps developers bring Alexa to headphones, wearables, fitness trackers, and more.
  • Developers can build Alexa-integrated devices with far-field performance by using the Amazon Alexa Premium Far-Field Voice Development Kit.

Amazon made it easier for developers to bring its Alexa digital assistant to more products with two news developer tools—the Alexa Mobile Accessory Kit and Amazon Alexa Premium Far-Field Voice Development Kit—announced Friday.

Digital assistants and the smart speakers they power represent the next major battleground in tech. By lowering the barrier for integration with third-party hardware, Amazon could help Alexa grow its user base with a broader number of available form factors than its main competitors, Siri and Google Assistant.

The Alexa Mobile Accessory Kit, announced in a blog post, focused on opportunities for Alexa integration with headphones, fitness trackers, smartwatches, and more. If a Bluetooth-enabled device is built with the kit, it will be able to work with Alexa Voice Service (AVS) through the Amazon Voice Service app on the host phone. The accessory will connect to the app on the host phone via Bluetooth pairing, the release said.

SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of artificial intelligence (Tech Pro Research)

Many companies have been working with the kit so far, developing solutions for making Alexa more mobile. Firms including Bose, Jabra, iHome, and Beyerdynamic are already working on projects that utilize the kit, the release said.

"Bose is excited to add a remarkable new Alexa experience for our customers," Brian Maguire, director of product management at Bose, said in the release. "Accessing Alexa's music, information, and vast number of skills on our headphones will become easier than ever, and we're looking forward to bringing our collaboration to life."

Alexa developers will also be able to create Alexa-enabled devices that operate through far-field performance by using the Amazon Alexa Premium Far-Field Voice Development Kit, a separate release noted.

Amazon initially opened up its far-field voice recognition to developers with the launch of the Alexa Voice Service back in April 2017. The Premium Far-Field Voice Development Kit is more of a reference solution to make it easier for developers and companies to better understand how to integrate the technology into their Alexa products. It features a "far-field in a chip" architecture, and contains the same microphone array as the Echo and Echo Show, the release said.

"The development kit uses Amazon-developed audio algorithms, wake word engine, and client application technology, delivering a high level of compatibility and the rich feature-set of Alexa functionality," the release said.

The kit features two separate microphone array types, allowing developers to account for 360-degree or 180-degree sound collection. The 360-degree option is good for multidirectional sound, while the 180-degree option is better while backed against a wall, the release noted.

"The Amazon Alexa Premium Far-Field Voice Development Kit is a significant step toward advancing our goal to provide tools and resources that help developers bring products to market that integrate with Alexa. This will ultimately bring customers more choice of where and how to access Alexa," Priya Abani, director of Amazon Alexa, said in the release.

Also see

Alexa on a table
Image: Ry Crist/CNET

About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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