Amazon is looking to strengthen its position in the in-car voice assistant market with the release of the new Alexa Custom Assistant. The Assistant will allow other companies to build their own custom-branded voice assistants using the Alexa framework.
While the platform can ultimately be deployed in any voice-enabled smart device, Amazon seems to be particularly bullish on the automotive industry. Fiat Chrysler already offers Alexa support with its Uconnect 5 in-car infotainment platform, and will be the first manufacturer to integrate the Alexa Custom Assistant into its own vehicles.
Companies can use the Assistant to deliver features like custom wake words and unique voices. According to Amazon, the “simultaneous multi-assistant” service essentially allows two paired voice assistants to work together, with Alexa enabling basic functions like timers and notifications while a branded assistant fields more specialized requests.
In that regard, Alexa Custom Assistant will promote Amazon’s Voice Interoperability Initiative, which seeks to make it easier for users to navigate a system with multiple voice assistants. Alexa itself is already available in vehicles from major manufacturers like Ford, Audi, and BMW, while Amazon released the third iteration of its Alexa Auto SDK back in October. Alexa Auto 3.0 leverages the Android platform to interact with in-car infotainment features like navigation.
“Voice assistants are a key part of the digital experiences, but building a custom, intelligent experience can be a costly, complex endeavor,” said an Amazon spokesperson in an email to VentureBeat. “Alexa Custom Assistant enables access to the same voice technology that powers Alexa, as well as Alexa’s ongoing improvements in AI, privacy and security, and new capabilities that are delivered to the vehicle automatically.”
Other car-oriented Amazon products include the Echo Auto and the Ring Car Cam and Car Alarm, all of which allow drivers to use their voices to issue basic commands. The Custom Assistant news comes a few months after Amazon accredited Kudelski IoT Labs to test third-party products with built-in Alexa utility. The tech giant uses end-to-end models to minimize Alexa’s computational footprint and enable on-device speech recognition.