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Amazon's Alexa voice AI may start blurting out information on its own this fall

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Greg Mombert/Digital Trends
An exclusive report provided by The Information reveals that Amazon’s voice-activated assistant, Alexa, may start speaking on its own this fall without users having to start the conversation. Essentially Alexa will support push notifications, which are alerts provided by apps and devices. This support is part of Amazon’s move to hand over more control over devices and apps to developers wanting to use the Alexa voice-based interface.

Amazon opened the Alexa cloud-based platform to third-party developers back in June 2015, allowing any device maker to add Alexa to their gadget. This included launching the Alexa Skills Kit for adding new capabilities to the service, and throwing open the doors to Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service to all OEMs wanting to create internet-connected gadgets. The company even launched a $100 million fund to get the creation of third-party Alexa-based devices rolling along.

Alexa first appeared in the Amazon Echo voice-activated device in June 2015. Since then, the virtual assistant has appeared in a number of devices such as the $130 portable version of the Amazon Echo (aka Amazon Tap) that works as a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi speaker, and the $90 Echo Dot that connects to an existing speaker. Strangely enough, this latter device can only be “officially “purchased through an Alexa-based device along with a required Prime membership. However, an unofficial shortcut to purchase the device can be found here.

The news regarding Alexa’s push notification support arrives by three unnamed individuals with “knowledge” of Amazon’s Alexa road map. Right now, that road map is unclear in regards to the types of devices and apps Amazon will allow to utilize Alexa’s push notifications. There’s also the challenge of preventing Alexa from blurting out notifications when people sitting around the device are having a conversation. That would simply be too rude.

One device maker already pondering over the possibility of push notifications is August Home, which currently uses Alexa to activate its smart locks. The virtual assistant could be used with the company’s doorbell/motion sensor/camera combo, which will send a notification if someone is lurking around at the door, trips the motion sensor, and activates the hidden camera. The notification arrives by way of an image provided on a phone, but Alexa could simply tell the user that someone is at the door.

“It’s on our wish list that when Alexa does have push notifications, the Echo speaker would notify you that someone is outside your door,” Jason Johnson, August Home CEO, told The Information.

As the article points out, any device with a microphone, speaker, and Internet connection can be transformed into an Alexa device. And as August Home reveals, Alexa can be used to control a number of devices as well. This is what makes Amazon’s product different than Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana: Alexa is open to third-party manufacturers.

Amazon naturally wouldn’t comment on the report, but the possibility of push notification support in Alexa is a feature developers have seemingly desired for over a year. One source said that Amazon is being extremely cautious because the company doesn’t want Alexa to annoy its customers. That said, Amazon is expected to establish guidelines for developers and manufacturers so that Alexa remains classy and doesn’t become an interrupting nag.

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Kevin Parrish
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