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Now anyone can make an Amazon Echo

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Amazon is making the Alexa virtual assistant open to better compete with Siri

Amazon wants to take voice control to new heights. Just two days after making the Echo wireless speaker available to the masses, the retail giant now wants hardware developers to incorporate Alexa, the Echo's cloud-based virtual assistant, into new, third-party devices. If developers jump on the opportunity, new hardware with Alexa baked in could potentially make Amazon's unique approach to voice ubiquitous in a way Siri and Cortana haven't yet managed.

Amazon wants Alexa to be ubiquitous

Developers will use the Amazon Voice Service (AVS) to build Alexa into new devices. The company is also releasing the Alexa Skills Kit, a collection of APIs and tools that will allow developers to create new features for the Echo and future Alexa-enabled devices. Altogether, the idea is to make the service applicable for a variety of hardware-specific applications in and away from the smart home. For instance, designers could develop an alarm clock with Alexa built in, which will enable the device to respond to questions about the weather and appointments. Kiosk manufacturers might also want to build Alexa into ticketing machines to make it easier to buy tickets for Ant-Man.

To pull all this off, Amazon started what it calls the Alexa Fund, which aims $100 million in investments at startups and designers looking to incorporate Alexa. The company has invested in seven startups so far. One, Mojio, is a connected car outfit that will use Alexa to allow drivers to ask how much gas they need before their next trip. Another, Scout Alarm, lets homeowners arm and disarm their home security system with only a vocal command.

The Echo was only Phase One

The new initiatives for Alexa are certainly ambitious, but that probably shouldn't be surprising. The Echo was already Phase One in Amazon's overall effort to make talking to robots a constant in our lives. Of course, it still comes down to whether or not we're ready for Amazon services to saturate our lives so completely.