One of the reasons I am so excited about Alexa and the Echo family of devices is the level of innovation happening. I appreciate that Amazon is working on creating an entire infrastructure, and not just to sell a product.
In the two years that the Echo was first released, we have seen new hardware, enhanced extendibility, and multiple partnerships creating new products based on voice technology. I want to highlight some efforts Amazon is making to build the community outside of their own internal research and development efforts.
The Alexa Prize is a contest under way in which Amazon has selected twelve university teams around the world in which each team receive $100,000, several Echo devices, free access to Amazon Web Services for hosting new skills and special developer support from Amazon. The goal is to create a skill which can engage in a conversation for 20 minutes.
Anybody who has used Alexa knows that it is a challenge. The team with the highest performing skill will win a cool half a million dollar prize and any team which can accomplish the goal will win $1 million dollars. The competition ends in November 2017 when the winners are announced.
The Alexa Fund
Amazon put together a fund of $100 million in venture capital financing to fuel voice technology innovation and they call it the Alexa Fund. This is strictly business as the fund will take partial ownership for putting up this cash. It is an ongoing program which already has 21 companies involved. It is intended for companies working on hardware, new skills and other contributions to voice technology. The fund is still taking applications, so if your company has a good idea, make sure you apply!
Amazon seems to regularly have contests going on with their partners. Right now, there is a "Hack the Dorm" contest going on, for college students to build new Skill for their university dorm room. The winner gets $1,000. cash and an Amazon Echo. Second and third place receive $300. along with either an Amazon Tap or Echo Dot.
The folks over at Hackster.io in partnership with Amazon are holding an Alexa API Mashup contest. The idea is to find any public web service which you can work into your own skill. This is still taking entries through December 18. First place winner gets a trophy, Echo, Echo Dot and Tap along with a $1,500. gift card (presumably for Amazon). Second place gets $1,000 and third place gets $500. in addiition to trophy and devices.
Not wanting to leave anybody out, Amazon has been giving developers free t-shirts when they publish new skills. With the cooler winter months upon us, developers now get a Hoodie when they publish a skill.
There is so much innovation going on in this space. It is exciting to be involved. It is fantastic that Amazon is committed to this through various developer programs and contests. We at VoiceDesigned.com wish the best of luck to all participants.