Amazon updates development environment powering Alexa

New language and version controls boost bot development experience

Amazon has announced an update to Lex, its conversational artificial intelligence (AI) interface service for applications, in order to make it easier to build bots with support for multiple languages.

Lex is the cloud-based service that powers Amazon’s Alexa speech-based virtual assistant. The company also offers it as a service that allows people to build virtual agents, conversational IVR systems, self-service chatbots, or informational bots.

Organizations define conversational flows using a management console that then produces a bot they can attach to various applications, like Facebook Messenger.

The company released its Version 2 enhancements and a collection of updates to the application programming interface (API) used to access the service.

One of the biggest V2  enhancements is the additional language support. Developers can now add multiple languages to a single bot, managing them collectively throughout the development and deployment process. 

According to Martin Beeby, principal advocate for Amazon Web Services, developers can add new languages during development and switch between them to compare conversations.

The updated development tooling also simplifies version control to track different bot versions more easily. Previously, developers had to version a bot's underlying components individually, but the new feature allows them to version at the bot level.

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Lex also comes with new productivity features, including saving partially completed bots and uploading sample utterances in bulk. A new configuration process makes it easier for developers to understand where they are in their bot's configuration, Beeby added.

Finally, Lex now features a streaming conversation API that can handle interruptions in the conversation flow. It can accommodate typical conversational speed bumps, such as a user pausing to think or asking to hold for a moment while looking up some information.

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