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Alexa is now available on your browser, sort of

Amazon's digital assistant program, Alexa, has a new feature that makes it available on browsers. It could integrate further in the future.

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    The Amazon logo in Santa Monica, Calif. (Sept 6, 2012). Amazon has unveiled a virtual assistant for browsing.
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Amazon’s Alexa is on the move from the Echo to your browser.

The e-commerce giant turned tech behemoth has put out a new online feature to make their virtual assistant program more accessible than ever. Amazon’s Alexa, which originally appeared as a part of the Amazon Echo, is now available to developers and users to play with on their browsers at Echosim.io.

But does the new browsing feature finally create the ideal virtual assistant for consumers, capable of opening new tabs, controlling a smart-home, and driving a Tesla? No.

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“Echosim.io lives in your browser, so anyone, anywhere can access it and test their Alexa skills,” Glenn Cameron, a marketing manager for Alexa, wrote in a blog introduction. “You no longer need an Alexa-enabled device to test your skills. Developers worldwide can use Echosim.io to experience Alexa.”

The key term in that description is “developers.”

Alexa originated as the voice behind the increasingly popular Amazon Echo and has developed since into a powerful platform for voice-activated commands. In Echo form, Alexa can access music streaming services, control lighting and heat, order pizza, or answer simple, Googlable questions.  

The potential is also there for Alexa to do a lot more. With the help of some coding knowledge, customers can create their own custom commands Alexa can respond to – a big strength of the platform that means updates and improvements will be regularly created and added. Developer attraction could also be an edge for Amazon’s Echo as rival tech companies like Google come out with their own versions.

One major flaw to that developer plan: Developing for Alexa isn’t particularly accessible.

“The issue, however, is that most people who don’t own an Echo have no opportunity to play around with the device and see how it works,” TechCrunch’s Jordan Crook writes.

Echosim.io first and foremost acts as a virtual alternative to owning an Echo for developers. The idea behind the program originated during a Hackathon when developer Sam Machin created Alexa in the Browser program. After some improvements, developers can now see what the capabilities are and test out new codes.

The program works by going to Echosim.io and logging in with a developer (or normal) Amazon account. Once the program has microphone access, users can click on the mic button and ask Alexa anything they want. After the question, the program will take a few moments to process and then respond. 

Amazon has also set up templates for amateur coders to create trivia, fact, or how-to skills – basically custom voice commands, potentially drawing an additional crowd of new developers. 

But for users who are not inclined to learn to code, the new browser simulator for Amazon’s Alexa isn’t likely to have a huge draw.

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