AWS Brings Its Digital Assistant to Work with Alexa for Business
In a bid to expand the reach of its Alexa voice-activated AI beyond home users, Amazon Web Services (AWS) this week launched a version for office conference environments called "Alexa for Business."
Amazon.com CTO Werner Vogels introduced Alexa for Business during his AWS re:Invent conference keynote on Thursday. Vogels touted the importance of natural voice interfaces in his presentation, particularly as deep learning and AI technologies become more commonplace.
"Voice is the first disruption that will happen driven by the capabilities of deep learning tools," Vogels said.
AWS aims to bring its AI platform's natural language capabilities to workplaces with Alexa for Business, which is now generally available. Vogels described Alexa for Business as "a fully managed service for having many Alexa devices at work."
Alexa for Business works for shared Alexa enabled devices (such as those located inside conference rooms or office break rooms), as well as for employees' personal Alexa devices that they enroll in their company's account.
Companies can use Alexa for Business to automatically start meetings inside conference rooms. It integrates with conferencing systems from vendors like Cisco and Polycom, according to Vogels. "You never have to type in a conference ID," he said. "You can just say, 'Alexa, start the meeting.'" It can also integrate with "smart room" systems to give conference leaders voice control over things like room temperature or window blinds.
For employees, they can link their personal Alexa device with their company's account to give them access to productivity apps like their Outlook Calendar and contacts. They can also use it to dial in to conference calls from their desk or perform hands-free dialing and messaging.
IT can configure Alexa for Business with custom skills and distribute them to certain shared and personal devices. They can also distinguish between private and public skills, and create skills groups. The Alexa for Business console enables the management and provisioning of shared devices, while individual users can be invited to enroll via the Alexa for Business account.
Information on supported devices is available in this FAQ, while pricing information is here.
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Gladys Rama (@GladysRama3) is the editor of Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com and AWSInsider.net, and the editorial director of Converge360.