Amazon’s Alexa reached a new milestone today: 10,000 skills.
The company’s digital assistant now has 10,000 skills — the voice equivalent of apps — that third party developers have built for Alexa, which powers Amazon’s popular Echo devices.
Alexa’s skills include things like the ability to schedule a ride from Lyft, get a pizza delivered, order Starbucks, find a lost phone or hear from former Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch.
The 10,000th skill is the “name that tune” game called Beat the Intro.
“Voice is the new UI,” Dave Isbitski, chief evangelist for Alexa and Echo, said at the Consumer Electronics Show last month. “At Amazon, we believe that there will be an Alexa skill for everyone, for everything.”
Amazon dominated CES with a series of integrations of Alexa into a variety of devices, from cars to refrigerators. PC maker Lenovo and Dish Network also announced Alexa-powered and supported devices at the show.
Alexa’s proliferation can be partially attributed to Amazon’s decision to open the digital brain up to developers and device manufacturers in 2015. Alexa Voice Service lets manufacturers integrate Alexa into their products. 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.
Amazon has an early lead in the voice assistant market, but it faces growing competition from other tech giants including Google and Microsoft. Amazon’s lead is notable in part because it doesn’t have the advantage of launching Alexa on a smartphone yet, in contrast with Apple’s Siri and others.
Research firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimates that there are now 8.2 million customers who own an Amazon Echo device, which first went on sale in late 2014 to Prime members and became generally available in June 2015.
Amazon in 2015 started a $100 million fund to invest in companies that will push the boundaries of voice-based interaction, and will launch an Alexa accelerator in Seattle this year in partnership with Techstars. So far, Amazon has invested in 22 startups as part of the Alexa Fund, mostly focused on smart home and wearable products. In the next year, the fund’s scope will expand to include areas like robotics, developer tools, healthcare and accessibility.