Amazon Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) and audio processing chipmakers Conexant signed a partnership this week to take Alexa Voice Assistant into more devices by 2017.
The team up will make it easier for third-party developers to include Amazon’s AI into as many devices as possible, including smartphones, tablets, speakers, wearables, and thermostats.
The Conexant AudioSmart 2-Mic Development Kit
The kit gives hardware developers two microphones and a processor carrying software for picking up the “Alexa,” word, a command that wakes up any Alexa-enabled device. The company assures the processor will recognize the wake command in noisy environments.
The kit also includes the company’s latest voice input recognition, which enables built-in speech recognition- It provides an essential and practical grounding technology for Alexa systems, so hardware makers do not have to worry about creating the entire listening and recognition capabilities themselves.
Conexant created the kit to cut down the development time for hardware companies looking to install Alexa on their devices. The period to include Alexa takes around six months, but the AudioSmart kit will cut it to just a few weeks.
The partnership is a good deal for both parties
Amazon is interested in spreading Alexa beyond its lineup of speakers, but the company does not have the partners nor the production capabilities to do so.
The cloud-based company opened Alexa to gadget makers last year, but the list of hardware developers that support the AI is still subtle. However, offering an easier way to cut development times could help increase the pace at which Alexa arrives in stores.
Conexant’s kit is a step towards this goal. Meanwhile, the chip making company will be selling components for production-ready devices.
AudioSmart 2-Mic Development Kit price and availability
The kit is available for $299, plus the separate cost of a Raspberry Pi 3. It sounds a lot compared to the price of an Amazon Echo speaker, just $199. Prototyping and production cost are very different things, and building a dev hardware from scratch with voice recognition could result more expensive than buying Conexant’s kit.
It means Alexa-ready devices will probably be high-end, and there will not be budget options very time soon, aside from Amazon’s offers. The prices will change when the technology is in a better place when voice recognition software becomes more straightforward and familiar.
Ultimately, the partnership means a boost for Alexa devices, so customers could hopefully see Alexa Voice Service spread farther into different gadgets and accessories.