One of the major announcements in the midst of the AWS Summit in San Francisco is that the voice-control technology powering Alexa is now available to all software developers. AWS unveiled “Amazon Lex,” a platform that enables developers to build conversational applications. With Lex, Amazon provides developers with tools to create voice and text AI and deploy them to almost any app.
From the AWS Console, Lex provides integration for building, testing, and deploying conversational bots to devices and applications, including enterprise software such as SalesForce and ZenDesk, as well as chat services like Facebook Messenger and Slack.
According to the Amazon Lex web page, developers will only need to provide a few sample phrases—questions, answers and prompts—for Lex to be able to build a conversational interface. It also provides the ability to build multi-step conversations. An Amazon Lex chatbot can be programmed to provide information through multiple devices, facilitate in-app engagement, and streamline enterprise tasks.
According to a report by Reuters, the Amazon Lex platform is already being rolled out to AWS’ customer base as of Wednesday.
When Amazon Lex was previewed in December, one of the key elements that the company wanted to highlight was the ability of the platform to help developers create more natural-sounding and conversational bots to fuel a more engaging user experience.
Lex features what the company calls “Advanced Learning functionalities” (ALR) and “Natural Language Understanding” (NLU), which not only enhance speech and text recognition, speech-to-text conversion, and response identification; they also harness data to create more conversational, user-specific responses.
As expected, Lex comes preconfigured with deep integration points into AWS services, including Lambda, MobileHub, CloudWatch and several others. With Lex living in the cloud rather than directly within apps and software, the service becomes scalable and utilizes a pay-as-you-consume model. Amazon also notes that Lex is a fully managed service, which means that hardware and infrastructure management is taken care of even as user engagement increases.
Amazon’s Chief Technology Officer Werner Vogels tells Reuters:
“There’s massive acceleration happening here. The cool thing about having this running as a service in the cloud instead of in your own data center or on your own desktop is that we can make Lex better continuously by the millions of customers that are using it.”
While Amazon Lex opens up more possibilities apps, it also paves the way for other developers and tech manufacturers to create smart devices that could compete with Amazon’s own products and services, such as the Alexa-powered Echo speakers. Still, the launch appears to be more strategic than self-cannibalistic, in that it helps Amazon position itself as the titan in voice-controlled technology.
In the meantime, it will be interesting to see how the launch of Amazon Lex impacts how developers incorporate more AI features to improve user experience.
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