Alexa is a cloud-based voice recognition service that allows users to get answers to questions, play music, turn on and off the lights, getting sports scores, and much more, all just using voice commands. The voice engine depends of usage to learn and improve over time, and geographical expansion, together with language support, is the key. Currently largely dominating in English language countries, Amazon Alexa is a natural option in Canada, even if approx. 20% of the population speaks French.
According to Amazon, for Canada, Alexa will deliver an all-new experience, including a new English voice with a Canadian accent, local knowledge, and local skills from Canadian developers. Over 10,000 skills will be available for users in Canada this year, including skills from Air Canada, TD Bank, TELUS, CBC, The Weather Network, Bank of Montreal, Manulife, Aviva, Yellow Pages, and more.
"Tens of millions of customers are already using Alexa, and today we're excited to bring her to Canada with an experience designed from the ground up for our Canadian customers," says Tom Taylor, Senior Vice President, Amazon Alexa. "The combination of Alexa and Echo provides customers with hands-free access to music, weather, news, information, and more—just ask."
The recently launched 2nd generation Amazon Echo has an array of seven microphones that use beam-forming technology and noise cancellation so it can clearly hear users from across the room. This advanced beam-forming technology combines the signals from the individual microphones to suppress noise, reverberation, the music currently playing, and even competing speech to make sure Alexa clearly hears a request, even when in a noisy room.
Amazon Echo has also been fine-tuned to deliver crisp vocals with dynamic bass response. Its 63mm down-firing woofer, dedicated tweeter, Dolby processing, and 360° omni-directional audio deliver crisp vocals and dynamic bass throughout the room. Echo can stream music directly from popular music services, and is also Bluetooth-enabled so users can stream music directly from a phone or tablet.
The also new Echo Plus speaker includes all the features of Echo, including room-filling sound powered by Dolby and a far-field microphone array, and adds a built-in Zigbee smart home hub. With the built-in Zigbee smart home hub, Echo Plus makes connecting to compatible Zigbee smart home devices easier, supporting products from Philips Hue, GE, Osram, and others.
Essentially Alexa devices offer a seamless, hands-free music experience with premier music services including the all-new Prime Music service, launching also now for Canada. Included in every Prime membership, users in Canada can stream a catalog of more than one million songs, including hundreds of hand-curated playlists and personalized stations, apart from popular music services like Spotify, Radioplayer, TuneIn, and more. Users can also now group multiple Echo devices for synchronized music streaming in every room. Echo, Echo Plus, and Echo Dot are now available for pre-order at www.amazon.ca/echo and will begin shipping December 5.
Global developers are bringing more than 10,000 skills to users in Canada this year including Philips Hue, TED Talks, Uber, and more. Developers can now also use the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) to build new skills and capabilities for users in Canada, allowing hardware manufacturers to begin developing Alexa-enabled products with the Alexa Voice Service (AVS).
"Our philosophy from day one was to make it as easy as possible for developers to create voice experiences with Alexa that reach customers in a totally new way," says Steve Rabuchin, Vice President, Amazon Alexa. "Tens of thousands of developers are already building innovative Alexa skills and Alexa-enabled products. We are excited to expand our tools to enable developers around the world to reach Alexa customers in Canada."
The Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) is a collection of free, self-service APIs and tools that make it fast and easy for developers to create skills, or capabilities, for Alexa. Developers don't need to have a background in natural language understanding or speech recognition to build an Alexa skill. The easiest way for Alexa skill developers to connect their skill to the cloud is to use AWS Lambda, an innovative compute service that runs code only when needed and scales automatically, so there is no need to provision or continuously run servers. Developers can also enhance and scale skills using additional AWS offerings such as Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), Amazon DynamoDB, and Amazon CloudFront.
With ASK, users in Canada will also be able to use Logitech's popular Harmony smart remotes with Alexa. Logitech's Harmony skill for Alexa lets users with a Harmony hub-based remote ask to change the channel, pause shows, turn up the volume, turn on or off the TV, and more. "We're thrilled to bring our Harmony skill for Alexa to Canada," says Rory Dooley, head of Logitech Smart Home. "We think using just your voice to play or pause your favorite show, raise or lower the volume, and more, is a truly enjoyable experience."
The Alexa Voice Service (AVS) enables developers to integrate Alexa directly into their products, bringing the convenience of voice control to any connected device. AVS provides developers with access to a suite of resources to quickly and easily build Alexa-enabled products, including APIs, hardware development kits, software development kits, and documentation. Through AVS, device makers can add a new intelligent interface to their products and offer access to a growing number of Alexa features, smart home integrations, and skills.
Toronto-based ecobee launched its next-generation smart thermostat ecobee4 with Amazon Alexa and far-field voice recognition in Canada. Customers can also enable the ecobee skill for Alexa to control an existing ecobee thermostat. "As a proud Canadian company, it is an exciting milestone for us to offer ecobee4 to Canadians with the launch of Amazon Alexa across the country," says ecobee President and CEO, Stuart Lombard.
Ultimate Ears, and Toronto-based FABRIQ, are among the speaker manufacturers that will follow availability of Amazon Alexa services in Canada to introduce their latest voice-controlled wireless speakers in that market. Ultimate Ears will launch the BLAST and MEGABLAST portable, and waterproof speakers, while FABRIQ will bring its popular Chorus multi-room speakers with Amazon Alexa also to Canada. "The Chorus speaker with Alexa delivers excellent audio, multi-room capability, voice functionality, and affordability," says Jordon Sansom, Director of Marketing, FABRIQ. "We're excited to bring FABRIQ home so Canadians can experience Alexa for themselves."