Amazon Echo Now Has Over 10,000 Alexa Skills Just A Voice Command Away

Amazon's foray into the digital assistant arena is an interesting one. Apple didn't invent the concept, but it popularized the idea when it bought the technology behind Siri and integrated into iOS with the release of the iPhone 4S. The concept caught on in the mobile world, but Amazon figured (correctly) that it could work in a smart speaker as well. Alexa was born, and now just a little over two years later, Alexa has blossomed with more than 10,000 skills available.

David Isbitski, chief evangelist for Alexa and Echo at Amazon, announced the milestone on Thursday in a blog post. To add some perspective to the feat, Isbitski noted that the number of Alexa skills available to users increased three-fold just since September of last year alone. It's been a busy five months, in other words, and one can only wonder how many skills will be added to Alexa between now and the end of the year.

Amazon Echo

To celebrate hitting the 10,000 skills milestone, Isbitski offered up a few highlights. They include:
  • Beat the Intro has the honor of being the 10,000th skill published. It’s a music game by Musicplode Media that tests your knowledge and love of music.
  • Customers love to play voice-based games and some of the highest customer-rated skills continue to be interactive games. The Magic Door and Jeopardy! are two customer favorites. One of our recent API mashup contest winners also created a video game companion skill that turned Alexa into a Star Trek-like space ship interface.
  • The top 5 categories of skills, in descending order are: News, Gaming, Education/Reference, Lifestyle and Novelty/Humor.
  • There are now tens of thousands of developers building skills for Alexa.
In addition to all of the skills Alexa has learned, the digital assistant has also been the center of controversy and forced a discussion about user privacy protections in the Internet of Things (IoT) era. That bit came about when Amazon refused a police request for voice data collected by its Echo speaker in a murder investigation. Echo is an always-on speaker that listens for the awake world "Alexa," at which point it records audio and sends it to Amazon's servers. That includes a fraction of a second of audio recorded before the awake word.

The question that arose is whether Alexa is protected under the First Amendment of the United States. Amazon contends that any information collected is protected under "freedom of speech" though others (including authorities) believe that recorded content in connection with crimes should be something that law enforcement has access to.

It's an interesting world we live in, folks.