Has Amazon already told us where Echo and the Alexa virtual assistant will land next? I think so. In a February post in the Amazon developer blog, Amazon Technology Evangelist, Mario Viviani, had this to say:
Today we are excited to announce that the all-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, the most powerful streaming media stick available, is coming to the UK and Germany. The next generation Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote will also be available in Japan this April.
The first stop for the new Fire TV stick is the U.S. followed by the UK and Germany. The same pattern as the Amazon Echo release. Since Japan is next for the Fire TV Stick, can Echo be far behind?
Amazon Has a Japanese Voice Model for Alexa
Line recently announced the Clova table-top virtual assistant device will be coming to Japan and several other Pacific Rim countries this summer. This would seem to put Clova on track to be the first product of its kind available in Japan. But, wait a minute. If Amazon intends to start shipping Fire TV Sticks with Voice Remote to Japan in April, why couldn’t they start shipping Echos with Alexa Voice Service? It likely depends on how robust the voice model is for Japanese. A voice remote is a narrower communication domain than a virtual assistant. There is simply less language and context to train it to recognize. Mr. Viviani in his post may offer another clue that suggests an Alexa Voice Remote is full-on Alexa:
Alexa is Amazon’s cloud-based voice service, which provides thousands of skills that allow customers to play music, get information instantly, and more.
Interestingly, Mr. Viviani uses the term “Alexa Voice Remote” for the UK and Germany but only “Voice Remote” when referring to Japan. That could simply be word economy or it may suggest a distinction in terms of capabilities across the language domains. Siri and Google both have voice models for Japanese so would appear to have an advantage for market entry, but Amazon has certainly made enough progress in this area to claim “voice remote” status and may have a fully workable Alexa solution for Japan today. If that is the case, you can expect Japan to be the next stop on the Echo world tour.