Developers Can Now Test Amazon Alexa Skills With A New Android App

App puts Alexa into palm of your hand.

The unexpected success of the Amazon Echo has already prompted Google and Apple to up their voice-recognition device priorities but Android users can now talk to Alexa through their smartphone.

Toronto-based Unified Computer Intelligence Corporation (UCIC) has launched an app called Lexa that allows people to access the voice-activated personal assistant by pressing a button. Android device owners don’t need to have an Amazon Echo to talk to Alexa, although they will need to have a valid Amazon account to engage with the Alexa Voice Service.

The express purpose of the Lexa app is to allow developers to test new Alexa Skills before submitting them to Amazon’s Echo store. Essentially, Lexa acts as a portal to the Amazon Voice Service system and where developers can build and test voice apps through an Android app before deploying them to Amazon.

“We believe this app will showcase the power of voice interaction and inspire hardware makers to add voice to their products,” said UCIC’s CEO Leor Grebler, in a press release. “We also aimed to create the simplest and purest interaction with Alexa Voice Service so that developers can focus on how their Skills will work on Alexa-powered devices like the Amazon Echo.”

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Lexa is very simple. You press a grey button, which then turns light blue. Once that happens, you can start a dialogue with Alexa which changes the color of the button to dark blue and indicates that Alexa is about to respond.

The Lexa app is a natural progression for UCIC. In 2012, the company used a Kickstarter campaign to build a voice-controlled home automation device called Ubi that raised almost $230,000 and was backed by 1,190 people. Since then, UCIC has concentrated on bringing voice interaction to consumer products and Internet of Things devices.

The Lexa app is free to U.S. Android device owners through the Google Play Store.


Alexa Keeps Getting Smarter

According to the Alexa Developer Blog, the number of Alexa Skills has increased to over 1,400—an increase of 50% in the last month alone. More than 10,000 developers have registered to use the Alexa Voice Service to build skills for the Amazon Echo, with the Alexa Fund investing in 16 startups that are focused on the smart home and wearable markets.

The Alexa app itself has also been given a complete makeover that makes skills easier to discover and enable. In addition, people no longer have to enable a skill through the actual app—you can now ask Alexa to enable a skill from the menu by directly using voice commands.

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