Amazon has opened up its Alexa voice-controlled virtual assistant to Windows, Mac, and Linux users, in addition to giving the the software more power on Raspberry Pi. The company has released the code for the hands-free version of Alexa for Raspberry Pi on GitHub, while Windows, Mac, and Linux users will have to make do with pressing a button to turn on the digital assistant.
Alexa support for Raspberry Pi has been available for a few months now, but there was no provision for making it hands-free and voice controlled. Users had to wake up Alexa by pressing an on-screen button. With the new code, Amazon has provided developers support for make the software always listen for the 'hot word,' in this case "Alexa", similar to what you get with Amazon's popular Echo, Dot, and Tap devices.
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The online retail giant has integrated two wake word engines in the code: TrulyHandsFree from Sensory, and Snowboy from KIIT.AI. Users will need to say the Alexa hot word in a conversational three times in order to train the software to pick up their voice so that it wakes up on command.
On the other hand, the always-on functionality will be absent from the release for Mac, Windows, and Linux. Amazon has not said whether it will make Alexa hands-free on these desktops anytime soon, though given improvements in the Raspberry Pi project, that's likely. The company has said that the code released on GitHub is for tinkering only, and not meant for commercial use.
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With Alexa on the desktop, users will, theoretically, be able to ask Alexa for the weather or look up information on the Internet, etc., and perform other tasks that Amazon's other Alexa-based devices can do. It does not 'integrate' with your desktop machine in any way.
(Also see: Amazon's Virtual Assistant Alexa Boasts 1,000 'Skills')
Apple brought Siri to the desktop with last month's macOS Sierra update. Google Now, the Internet search giant's digital assistant, was released for the desktop version of the Chrome browser in 2014, but Google killed it off last year saying few users ever clicked on the notifications.