Count the ability to “summon” cars in the growing list of tasks Amazon’s Alexa is capable of performing. Alexa has also wandered even further from home, going mobile, as the digital assistant continues to grow and mature.
In its first quarter report, Amazon announced that Alexa had developed hundreds of new skills that range from requesting Uber cars and ordering pizza from Domino’s to receiving election updates from NBC and checking Capitol One credit balances.
Alexa got her start as Amazon’s answer, or an alternative to Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. Moreover, Amazon built a home for Alexa inside of the Echo, a mic-fitted speaker system that facilitates exchanges between consumers and cloud-connected resources behind the digital assistant.
While Amazon didn’t break down its hardware sales to reveal just how well its Echo products have been doing, the expansion of the product line and the company’s continued push of Alexa indicate that the digital assistant will have a long life.
At this point, it is only getting better as Amazon has given developer access to the Alexa’s skills kit and voice service Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).
A pair of the latest Alexa projects to bear fruit includes Lexi, which is an app that leverages the digital assistant, and Tesla’s autonomous valet service for its electric vehicles.
Alexa And Lexi
In April, Alexa ventured out of her Echo chambers and animated non-Amazon hardware for the first time. Invoxia leveraged the digital assistant for its Triby device, but now someone has taken Alexa even further.
Last week, Bluetoo Ventures introduced Lexi, which is essentially Alexa packaged as a $5 iOS app — that’s $175 cheaper compared to buying an Echo.
The app relies on Alexa Voice Services and consumers can use Lexi in much the same way they can communicate with Echo systems.
Consumers can use Lexi much like they would Siri: use voice to review headlines, check traffic, reorder Amazon products, get information about local business and pretty much just quiz the software on whatever questions come to mind.
For developers, Lexi offers a way to test and demo their Alexa projects without having to drag around an Echo.
There are a few caveats. Lexi won’t work with book and music services, at least for now. And users may need to get Amazon’s Alexa app in order to set up location services, manage smart home components and reorder Amazon products.
Already able to possess third-party products and smartphones, Alexa has also gained the ability to summon vehicles.
Jason Goecke worked with the Amazon Echo and an unofficial Tesla API, creating code that responds to custom keywords. Goecke went with “Hey KITT,” a Knight Rider reference, as the trigger word to call his Model S out of his garage.
“While Tesla has not released a public API for developers to date, that does not stop one from hacking on the car anyway,” he says.
It’s a “fun” Alexa skill, but there are too many unaddressed security issues to leave the ability in place on his Echo, he says. One such security threat is the curious minds of kids, and he has some of those bold little being.
While watching him call his car out of his garage says something, Goecke also wanted to make a statement to Tesla. He’s calling for the automaker to work with developers to open up the Tesla API.
“The real power of any cloud-connected platform, whether it be an iPhone or an amazing electric vehicle, may only be fully realized by building and encouraging a vibrant developer ecosystem,” says Goecke.
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