Amazon's wildly popular virtual assistant does a few things really well—reporting weather and traffic, queuing up music, or pinging Microsoft Bing to answer basic questions. But Alexa can't help if you miss a flight, lose your cable service, or need to transfer money. AI company Nuance announced today an integration with Alexa that will make those kinds of things possible.
Known for voice recognition tech, Nuance also provides a customer service bot platform called Nina to about 6,500 companies and organizations, such as Domino's pizza, ING bank, USAA Bank, and the Australian Taxation Office. Nina can now plug into Alexa, letting people chat with customer service bots over the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and other Alexa-enabled devices. Pinging a company using Alexa is not brand new. The platform has thousands of "Alexa skills"—essentially apps that enabled actions like playing an online radio station, reciting cocktail recipes, calling an Uber, or ordering a Domino's pizza.
But Nuance promises to do a lot more. Bank customers could transfer money, for instance, or airline customers could check in, change seats, or book a new flight. Users won't have to manually set up these capabilities. If Alexa hears magic words like "Chase Bank," it will call up Nina's Chase bot, then play a game of telephone—relaying messages between customer and the customer service bot. Chase is a hypothetical example: No Nuance customers have announced Alexa support yet.
Nuance EVP Robert Weideman says that a Google Home integration is coming. Like Alexa, Home has open application programming interfaces for such plug-ins. Apple's Siri isn't open, says Weideman, adding "not yet."