Amazon Alexa
Amazon is bringing Amazon Lex, the technology in Alexa, to all customers. Reuters/Rick Wilking

Amazon is keeping up in the artificial intelligence race against other companies, like Apple, Google and Microsoft. To do that, Amazon is bringing the technology inside Alexa, Amazon Lex, to all customers, the company announced Wednesday.

Amazon Lex was introduced last year at the AWS re:Invent 2016 conference in Las Vegas along with AI services Amazon Rekognition and Amazon Polly.

Amazon Lex provides automatic speech recognition, for turning speech to text, and natural language understanding, which recognizes the intent of the text. The service lets developers create natural, conversational interactions in voice and text for their businesses.

Amazon says the service will make it easier for developers to build conversational user experiences for web, mobile, and connected device apps and “provide a more personalized experience, critical feature in customer support.”

How Amazon Lex Works

With Amazon Lex, developers can create conversational apps that perform tasks such as checking the weather or latest news, booking travel, ordering food, controlling a connecting device, etc. Developers can provide Amazon Lex with sample phrases, like “book a flight,” along with questions or responses Amazon Lex needs to say, like “where do you want to travel” or “where do you want to go.”

AWS chief executive Andy Jassy explained how Amazon Lex works last year. Jassy used a pizza company as an example of how the service could boost customer service. If a customer asks “I’d like to order a pizza,” developers can automate a response like “What toppings would you like?” The service can also provide a more personal interaction with consumers by including responses like, “Would you like your typical pizza for $9.95,” Jassy explained.

Amazon Lex is currently being used by the American Heart Association (AHA), Capital One, Freshdesk, Hubspot, Liberty Mutual, NASA, Ohio Health, and Vonage.

AHA is using Amazon Lex's AI technology to “streamline” registration for its events, the organization said.

“We used Amazon Lex's AI technology to streamline the registration process so prospective Heart Walk participants can use their natural voice to easily register through heartwalk.org,” AHA said in a statement.

Developers are only charged for the text or speech requests that are made, Amazon said.

“Amazon Lex’ pay-as-you-go pricing and low cost per request make it a cost-effective way to build conversational interfaces anywhere,” the service’s site says.

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