When Amazon announced Echo, I had the feeling that it was going to offer speech services down the road, built on top of its massive cloud capabilities.
Well, say hello to Alexa Voice Service.
Remember when the speech services market was a niche with Nuance being the dominant player, as it absorbed and acquired various smaller competitors? That market was looking bleak until the explosion of cloud computing and mobile devices, when tech companies suddenly have access to cheap computing resources and overwhelming amount of data to sample. Developers are getting acquainted with Google Now, Microsoft Cortana, Apple Siri, and now Amazon Alexa.
Amazon wants to be the one-stop shop for developing cutting edge interactive apps. It has the cloud, it has the APIs, and it has the data. It’s even setting aside $100 million to invest in companies that produce innovative voice-enabled products. So far the list of seeded companies doesn’t include any customer service- or contact center-oriented ones.
It’s ironic that speech apps were the talk among contact centers decades earlier. Companies already realized the value in an IVR that understood the caller’s instructions. But the majority of today’s IVRs still only understand touch tone. Where is the adoption? Why can’t I speak to the bank app on my smartphone and simply ask, “Please connect me to an agent who can handle credit card fraud”? Where is the innovation?
Hopefully by opening up Alexa, Amazon will attract developers who are also familiar with creating such apps, and not merely ones that’ll check weather, play music, or set alarms.