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The next generation Amazon Echo and the Echo Plus, which is equipped with a built-in smart home hub. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

Amazon said Wednesday at an event unveiling the next generation Echo device that it has the equivalent of a small town of people — more than 5,000 — working on the company’s digital assistant, Alexa.

And Amazon’s not even at full capacity when it comes to Alexa. The company’s job site shows close to 1,100 open positions on a variety of Alexa-focused teams.

Voice-activated assistants appear to be the Next Big Thing in the tech world, and Amazon is competing with a who’s who of tech giants, including Apple, Microsoft, Google and more. Interestingly, Amazon and Microsoft recently formed a pact that will see the two company’s digital assistants gain the ability to talk to one another.

A recent study found that the flagship Echo has a tight grip on the U.S. home smart speaker realm, with a 76 percent marketshare. The study also estimates that Amazon has sold 15 million Echo units across the U.S. since the smart speaker’s debut two years ago.

Alexa has long since outgrown the Echo, making her way into fashion, cooking and more.

Amazon’s early lead in the voice market can be partially attributed to the company’s decision to open the digital brain up to developers and device manufacturers in 2015. The Alexa Skills Kit encourages third-party developers to build skills for Alexa. Developers who want to add to Alexa’s abilities can write code that works with Alexa in the cloud, letting the smart assistant do the heavy lifting of understanding and deciphering spoken commands.

Just last month Amazon introduced a new set of tools to help commercial device makers build the technology into their products. Amazon also opened up what amounts to Alexa’s ears, her 7-Mic Voice Processing Technology, to third party hardware makers who want to build the digital brain into their devices. Amazon opened up Amazon Lex, the artificial intelligence technology that powers Alexa to developers.

Developers have responded, and Alexa had more than 15,000 capabilities as of the end of June.

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