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

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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.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,975member
    sog35 said:
    This is WRECKLESS

    Watch unsavory companies gain access to the Mic and record peoples conversations for years.
    Nothing changes if Asus, HTC, or LG creates a Alexa-based device as these companies already create many devices that have microphones (and cameras). The only thing that is reckless is the lack of reasoning skills by assuming that always listening implying always recording, or that because there's no keyword activation feature on a device that it's not listening and recording without your knowledge.
    edited April 2017 gatorguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 16
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 1,756member
    sog35 said:
    This is WRECKLESS

    Watch unsavory companies gain access to the Mic and record peoples conversations for years.
    Soli said:
    sog35 said:
    This is WRECKLESS

    Watch unsavory companies gain access to the Mic and record peoples conversations for years.
    Nothing changes if Asus, HTC, or LG creates a Alexa-based device as these companies already create many devices that have microphones (and cameras). The only thing that is reckless is the lack of reasoning skills by assuming that always listening implying always recording, or that because there's no keyword activation feature on a device that it's not listening and recording without your knowledge.


    People have to be smart enough to only by devices from a company they can trust.   Unfortunately almost no one reads the Terms of Service.

    But I think that this is great that Amazon is doing this.   The are making both the hardware (microphones) and software (alexa) available to companies to come up with new products.    It kind of reminds me of when all the PC compatible manufactures started creating computers with MS-DOS and it wasn't IBMs game anymore.

    Amazon may be getting ahead of both Google and Apple in the home.    Amazon is certainly a threat to both as they have their own ecosystem and own hardware.   I think may of the Smart device manufacturers will now advertise "works with Alexa" and forget about "homekit".   For now I want HomeKit support, but that can change.

    Its funny how many of these articles about SIRI, ALEXA, or the Google Assistant, end with Apple is working on an improved SIRI version that is only 6-12 months away based on recent acquisitions.   I've come to shrug these rumors off.    If there was one thing that Apples recent MAC PRO  mea culpa shows is how Apple can be so FOCUSED that they can forget about products for a real long time.    I think that this is the case with SIRI.    I haven't seen anything to indicate that they have been working enhanced hardware (microphones) that could go be used with SIRI in either new Phones or an ECHO competitor.   I think SIRI will be kept life support for the next 1-2 years when Apple will have to have another MAC PRO type confessional.   I would never ever want to get into an APPLE CAR based on the current state of SIRI.

    SAMSUNG was smart to withhold BIXBY (voice).    BIXBY is not VIV from what I've read.   If BIXBY can work without Internet Access then it will be a huge selling point.   But they probably need to give BIXBY another year (or two).   Wouldn't it be amazing is SIRI could work in AirPlane Mode.    Its only been 5 years since release.







  • Reply 3 of 16
    crimguycrimguy Posts: 118member
    I've done a bit of home automation recently and the low price of the Echo Dot made it irresistible, if not to just try.  I found both siri/homekit and alexa to be very competitive with one another.  Alexa is decidedly less intelligent, but what it knows it does rather well.

    I do agree with Amazon's approach about having dedicated devices in each room though.  What makes it work is how fast the Echo dot activates and responds to commands.  Siri has a long pause on my iPhone 6S+ that requires a "Hey Siri," followed by a pause of about a half second.  With Echo, it's immediate.  "Hey Siri, turn on the office lights" will not work, whereas "Alexa, turn on the office lights will."  That instant reaction is wonderful and makes it work better.  Possibly giving it the edge.

    On the other hand, I think the security of HomeKit/Siri is a huge bonus, and I hope other companies can take security and privacy as seriously as Apple going forward.
    luckydog23
  • Reply 4 of 16
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,975member
    k2kw said:

    People have to be smart enough to only by devices from a company they can trust.

    Even if you trust a company, there's always a change of a device being accessed, but you here people worried about an Amazon Echo and not the possibility of billions of connected devices recording via the mic. There's a minimal amount of concern from webcams.


    crimguy said:
    I've done a bit of home automation recently and the low price of the Echo Dot made it irresistible, if not to just try. 
    The Echo proper is worlds apart from the Echo Dot in term of the microphones and speaker. The Echo is still highly impressive to me after nearly 2.5 years of use, and I'm still using it every day. I hope Apple comes out with a real competitor, because of the additional security that you mention.
  • Reply 5 of 16
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,975member
    sog35 said:
    Soli said:
    sog35 said:
    This is WRECKLESS

    Watch unsavory companies gain access to the Mic and record peoples conversations for years.
    Nothing changes if Asus, HTC, or LG creates a Alexa-based device as these companies already create many devices that have microphones (and cameras). The only thing that is reckless is the lack of reasoning skills by assuming that always listening implying always recording, or that because there's no keyword activation feature on a device that it's not listening and recording without your knowledge.
    Do you have any idea what Facebook does with every single byte of data they can retrive about a person?

    Now imagine if Facebook had a recorder in your home 24x7x365..................horrible. 
    So now you're saying that Facebook, of all companies, wouldn't just listen for a keyword, but would lie to their customers and record "24x7x365." For a conspiracy theory that's really pathetic.
    edited April 2017 singularitygatorguyanantksundaram
  • Reply 6 of 16
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,191member
    sog35 said:
    This is WRECKLESS

    Watch unsavory companies gain access to the Mic and record peoples conversations for years.
    You should always consider yourself being recorded by someone somewhere when you're in public, and some of the time being recorded by someone when you're not in public! This is the world we live in now.
    Soli
  • Reply 7 of 16
    crimguycrimguy Posts: 118member
    Soli said:
    k2kw said:

    People have to be smart enough to only by devices from a company they can trust.

    Even if you trust a company, there's always a change of a device being accessed, but you here people worried about an Amazon Echo and not the possibility of billions of connected devices recording via the mic. There's a minimal amount of concern from webcams.


    crimguy said:
    I've done a bit of home automation recently and the low price of the Echo Dot made it irresistible, if not to just try. 
    The Echo proper is worlds apart from the Echo Dot in term of the microphones and speaker. The Echo is still highly impressive to me after nearly 2.5 years of use, and I'm still using it every day. I hope Apple comes out with a real competitor, because of the additional security that you mention.
    And that says something, as I'm finding the microphone on the dot to be incredible.  I didn't bother with the Echo because I didn't need the speaker.  If it had Apple Music integration I'd be all over it.  But we all know that will never happen, since Amazon and Apple don't play nice with each other.  
  • Reply 8 of 16
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,975member
    sog35 said:
    This is WRECKLESS

    Watch unsavory companies gain access to the Mic and record peoples conversations for years.
    You should always consider yourself being recorded by someone somewhere when you're in public, and some of the time being recorded by someone when you're not in public! This is the world we live in now.
    Even if you only have iDevices and have disabled "Hey Siri" you should always consider that it's possible for someone to access the device, just as we recently found that Safari was vulnerable to Javascript accessing the motion sensors and to Go To Fail error which means that any data sent over many years could be unencrypted with ease.

    This "Apple is impenatrable, and everyone else is actively spying on you" crap is just obnoxious.
    edited April 2017 gatorguysingularityanantksundaram
  • Reply 9 of 16
    crimguy said:
    I've done a bit of home automation recently and the low price of the Echo Dot made it irresistible, if not to just try.  I found both siri/homekit and alexa to be very competitive with one another.  Alexa is decidedly less intelligent, but what it knows it does rather well.

    I do agree with Amazon's approach about having dedicated devices in each room though.  What makes it work is how fast the Echo dot activates and responds to commands.  Siri has a long pause on my iPhone 6S+ that requires a "Hey Siri," followed by a pause of about a half second.  With Echo, it's immediate.  "Hey Siri, turn on the office lights" will not work, whereas "Alexa, turn on the office lights will."  That instant reaction is wonderful and makes it work better.  Possibly giving it the edge.

    On the other hand, I think the security of HomeKit/Siri is a huge bonus, and I hope other companies can take security and privacy as seriously as Apple going forward.
    The advantage the Echo dot has is that it doesn't have to worry about conserving battery life and can always be actively listening. 
    To conserve power, the iPhone is only listening for "Hey Siri".
  • Reply 10 of 16
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,303member
    sog35 said:
    This is WRECKLESS

    Watch unsavory companies gain access to the Mic and record peoples conversations for years.
    Not a single Google / Alexia type device is getting over my threshold! I'm also in the  process of removing Nest and replacing it with an Ecobee3 today.  Don't get me wrong I love Amazon and good for them for taking on Google.
    edited April 2017 watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 16
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,975member
    crimguy said:
    I've done a bit of home automation recently and the low price of the Echo Dot made it irresistible, if not to just try.  I found both siri/homekit and alexa to be very competitive with one another.  Alexa is decidedly less intelligent, but what it knows it does rather well.

    I do agree with Amazon's approach about having dedicated devices in each room though.  What makes it work is how fast the Echo dot activates and responds to commands.  Siri has a long pause on my iPhone 6S+ that requires a "Hey Siri," followed by a pause of about a half second.  With Echo, it's immediate.  "Hey Siri, turn on the office lights" will not work, whereas "Alexa, turn on the office lights will."  That instant reaction is wonderful and makes it work better.  Possibly giving it the edge.

    On the other hand, I think the security of HomeKit/Siri is a huge bonus, and I hope other companies can take security and privacy as seriously as Apple going forward.
    The advantage the Echo dot has is that it doesn't have to worry about conserving battery life and can always be actively listening. 
    To conserve power, the iPhone is only listening for "Hey Siri".
    They're ALL actively listening for a keyword.
    edited April 2017
  • Reply 12 of 16
    crimguycrimguy Posts: 118member
    Yeah it can't be completely dormant.  There is just more lag in the Apple system.  I'm sure that's more due to the fact that the echo is a single-purpose device, and is only there to listen.  the iPhone is doing dozens of things at any given time.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 16
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    Soli said:
    sog35 said:
    This is WRECKLESS

    Watch unsavory companies gain access to the Mic and record peoples conversations for years.
    You should always consider yourself being recorded by someone somewhere when you're in public, and some of the time being recorded by someone when you're not in public! This is the world we live in now.
    Even if you only have iDevices and have disabled "Hey Siri" you should always consider that it's possible for someone to access the device, just as we recently found that Safari was vulnerable to Javascript accessing the motion sensors and to Go To Fail error which means that any data sent over many years could be unencrypted with ease.

    This "Apple is impenatrable, and everyone else is actively spying on you" crap is just obnoxious.
    You just built a  straw man bud, Apple is not 100% impenetrable.
    But, they at least give a shit unlike Amazon or Google.
    Microsoft seems to almost give a shit, a big improvement on their don't give a crap days of old.

    Also, technically, nobody was accessing anything here, the browser was running a malicious script. Not sure if the script ran while the page didn't have focus... Probably not or they could use every web page on every computer as a botnet if the script is spread wide enough...  Compromising a CDN where people load the scripts from would be a good way to go to do this, surprised it hasn't been tried more.

    The fact html pages access is heavily restricted yet you can just connect your browser js to any ip is a disaster waiting to happen on every platform. It's done through the script injection trick.

  • Reply 14 of 16
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,975member
    foggyhill said:
    Soli said:
    sog35 said:
    This is WRECKLESS

    Watch unsavory companies gain access to the Mic and record peoples conversations for years.
    You should always consider yourself being recorded by someone somewhere when you're in public, and some of the time being recorded by someone when you're not in public! This is the world we live in now.
    Even if you only have iDevices and have disabled "Hey Siri" you should always consider that it's possible for someone to access the device, just as we recently found that Safari was vulnerable to Javascript accessing the motion sensors and to Go To Fail error which means that any data sent over many years could be unencrypted with ease.

    This "Apple is impenatrable, and everyone else is actively spying on you" crap is just obnoxious.
    You just built a  straw man bud, Apple is not 100% impenetrable.
    But, they at least give a shit unlike Amazon or Google.
    I didn't build anything, but you did when you just made the claim that only Apple gives a shit about security and stated that Google and Amazon don't.
  • Reply 15 of 16
    sog35 said:
    This is WRECKLESS

    Watch unsavory companies gain access to the Mic and record peoples conversations for years.
    You should always consider yourself being recorded by someone somewhere when you're in public, and some of the time being recorded by someone when you're not in public! This is the world we live in now.
    I agree with you!
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