Ever since I first reviewed the Amazon (AMZN) Echo last year, I've stated that this is the future of technology -- interacting with a device using just your voice and having it perform tasks for you. In the past year, nothing has changed my mind, and it seems as if Amazon is serious about keeping its lead in the nascent artificial intelligent assistant space.
This week, Amazon announced that instead of going to the Alexa app on your smartphone or tablet, you can just speak the skill you want it to add, further strengthening the relationship between device and you. For instance, if you want to enable your Fitbit, you just say "Alexa, enable Fitbit" and it's done.
Amazon hasn't (and probably won't for a long time) disclosed how many Echos, Dots or Taps it has sold, but it's clear these products (of which the Echo was the first, with the Dot and Tap coming earlier this year) have been an unintended boon for Amazon and its artificial intelligence/machine learning initiatives, as well as providing a nice boost in hardware revenues.
It's clear that developers are also taking notice of the platform, something that helps bring in more users as it gets more features: there are now more than 1,400 skills for Alexa, up from 1,000 earlier in June. That's a pretty explosive growth rate, even if it is a small base.
Amazon has noted the API (application programming interface) has grown by a factor of five since the start of the year, indicating that developers love what users are doing with it and how they're responding to it in new, previously unthought of ways.
Amazon noted that customers have made over 3 million requests using the top 10 Alexa skills. While this doesn't give much detail on sales figures, it does provide some insight into usage. People are happy with the device and using it frequently. Customer satisfaction levels are something big tech companies like Samsung, Apple (AAPL) and others talk about a lot. The reasoning goes, "the higher the customer satisfaction level, the more likely they are to recommend to friends or purchase a new device."
Amazon is putting serious muscle behind Alexa, its artificial assistant, not only with the three devices above, but also the Alexa Fund, which has $100 million to invest in various companies related to robotics, developers, healthcare and more, with 16 investments to date.
We will see more of these Echo-like devices in the months and years to come, with Google (GOOG) having already announced Google Home. Rest assured, Apple is working on a competitor, and it stands to reason Samsung, Xiaomi and others aren't too far behind.
As we move more towards artificial intelligence, these types of hub devices are going to prove to be invaluable over the next decade. Amazon, with its Echo family, has a huge lead over the other tech giants. With the pace of innovation continuing to grow exponentially, it's going to be hard for the others to catch up with Jeff Bezos and the rest of his team.