Amazon recently added more tools for developers creating their own apps, including a text-to-speech service enabling at least eight new voices for Alexa-like conversational apps, and a web-based tool for creating 3D, augmented reality and virtual reality apps, according to a pair of VentureBeat reports.
The Amazon Web Service text-to-speech program Polly, which can produce as many as 50 different voices in 24 languages, was used to create eight new voices now available for developer preview for English-speaking Alexa skills in the U.S.
The app development tool, Sumerian, was first announced last November, and works with other Amazon tools, such as Polly, the natural language tool Lex, Amazon's IoT platform and others to allow developers to more easily create apps regardless of their level of expertise.
News of these tools comes just days after Amazon also enabled outside developers to take advantage of in-skill purchasing capabilities for their Alexa skills. Over the last year and a half, the e-commerce giant has been gradually unveiling new developer tools and looking for other ways to assist developers, all in the name of building a vast and healthy ecosystem around Alexa, as well as devices like its Fire tablets.
These efforts appeared to begin around the time of Amazon's Re:Invent conference in November 2016 with the opening of Polly and other tools for developer use. Sumerian was announced at Re:Invent a year later just as retailers, including Amazon, joined the augmented reality app craze and began more seriously exploring the idea of "mixed reality" experiences. Sumerian's general availability now means we could start seeing a new round of such apps and features become available through Amazon's ecosystem.
While the release of these tools strengthens Amazon's relationships with developers, and encourages them to create better skills and apps, it's also becoming a necessary move for Amazon amid rising competition from Google Assistant and other platforms. In fact, just weeks ago, Google announced plans to add six new voices (including John Legend's) to its Assistant-powered devices later this year.
It remains to be seen how valuable it will be for developers to have access to additional voices, but it could be a natural way for developers to differentiate their new apps in a crowded market. These more detailed updates to augmented reality apps could also be a sign that the voice-activated app economy is ready for is next phase of growth.