If you think Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant is ubiquitous already, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Amazon has announced the minimum specifications required to build Alexa into a device have been lowered considerably, meaning the assistant will be available on lower-spec devices.
From now on, including Amazon Voice Services on a device will only require 1MB of RAM and low-power chips like the ARM-based Cortex-M processors, opening the door for Alexa to be built into basic thermostats, light switches and Happy Meal toys.
Previously, hardware manufacturers had required 100MB and an ARM Cortex-A Class processor in order to offer Alexa on their devices, but this changes everything. Amazon says it has achieved this by offloading more of the intensive audio processing work to the cloud it has reduced the cost of building an Alexa-enabled device by 50%.
In a blog post this week, the company explained: “With this reduction in production cost, customers can now cost-effectively build new categories of differentiated voice-enabled products such as light switches, thermostats, and small appliances. This allows consumers to talk directly to Alexa in new parts of their home, office, or hotel rooms for a truly ambient experience.
“Alexa Voice Service (AVS) Integration for IoT Core shifts media retrieval, audio decoding, audio mixing, and state management from a physical device to a new virtual Alexa Built-in device in the cloud.”
This means we’re likely to see Alexa absolutely everywhere before too much longer, but that won’t be considered good news by all.
The prospect of Alexa lurking in a hotel or office light switch will fill some privacy-minded people with dread. Seeing an Echo Dot speaker on the bedside table is one thing, but having a listening device sitting inconspicuously within a light switch is a different matter altogether.