With Amazon's new "Alexa Custom Assistant" program, companies can effectively build their own branded voice assistants, complete with custom wake words, voices and skills only available to their customers. Custom assistants will make use of Alexa's natural language understanding and other technologies at the core of Amazon's AI assistant.
One of the first companies making use of the program is Fiat Chrysler, which already has an existing Alexa integration for some of its car models. However, Amazon is clearly aiming beyond the automotive space, with a blog post mentioning home workout gear, set-top boxes and robot vacuum cleaners.
Ultimately, these custom assistants are still based on Alexa, and Alexa will actually coexist on devices that use a custom assistant. The custom assistant program could convince companies to choose Alexa over Google's assistant or custom solutions built by third-party providers.
Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.