announced today it has begun to ask customers to participate in a preview program that will help the company build a Spanish-language Alexa experience for U.S. users. The program, which is currently invite-only, will allow Amazon to incorporate into the U.S. Spanish-language experience a better understanding of things like word choice and local humor, as it has done with prior language launches in other regions. In addition, developers have been invited to begin building Spanish-language skills, also starting today, using the Alexa Skills Kit. The latter was , noting that any skills created now will be made available to the customers in the preview program for the time being. They’ll then roll out to all customers when Alexa launches in the U.S. with Spanish-language support later this year. Manufacturers who want to build “Alexa Built-in” products for Spanish-speaking customers can also now request early access to a related Alexa Voice Services (AVS) developer preview. Amazon says that Bose, Facebook and Sony are preparing to do so, while smart home device makers, including Philips, TP Link and Honeywell Home, will bring to U.S. users “Works with Alexa” devices that support Spanish. Ahead of today, Alexa had supported Spanish language skills, but only in Spain and Mexico — not in the U.S. Those developers can opt to to U.S. customers, Amazon says. In addition to Spanish, developers have also been able to create skills in English in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and India; as well as in German, Japanese, French (in France and in Canada), and Portuguese (in Brazil). But on the language front, Google has had a decided advantage thanks to its work with Google Voice Search and Google Translate over the years. Last summer, for Spanish, in addition to launching the device in Spain and Mexico. Amazon also trails Apple in terms of support for Spanish in the U.S., as in the U.S., Spain and Mexico in September 2018. Spanish is a widely spoken language in the U.S. According to a by Instituto Cervantes, the United States has the second highest concentration of Spanish speakers in the world, following Mexico. At the time of the report, there were 53 million people who spoke Spanish in the U.S. — a figure that included 41 million native Spanish speakers, and approximately 11.6 million bilingual Spanish speakers.
CTRL-labs connects the human brain to a machine via a wrist-worn device. (CTRL-labs Photo) , the New York-based startup that is reimagining how the human brain can connect with machines, has closed another big funding round, with Amazon’s Alexa Fund pitching in on the $28 million haul. The round was led by GV, according to a news release on Friday, and Amazon was joined by Lux Capital, Spark Capital, Matrix Partners, Breyer Capital, and Fuel Capital. A also raised $28 million and included the late Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital among investors. The company was co-founded by Thomas Reardon, who helped develop Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser, and Patrick Kaifosh, a theoretical neuroscientist. CTRL-labs has raised $67 million to date and the latest round will help with, among other things, the building and distribution of its developer kit, , currently in preview for select partners. With a wristband that picks up signals from the brain and allows users to control a digital device without moving a finger, CTRL-labs’ long-term vision is to pave the way for mass consumer adoption of non-invasive neural interface technology. The new kind of universal controller is meant to “empower humans to harness their machines as natural extensions of thought and movement,” according to the company. “Like the developers and creators we hear from, we feel fundamentally dissatisfied with the pervading technologies of the last century,” Reardon said in a statement. “Our objective with CTRL-kit is to give the industry’s most ambitious minds the tools they need to reimagine the relationship between humans and machines.” Check out some of these videos, demonstrating CTRL-labs technology in action: And here’s Reardon introducing CTRL-kit at the startup event Slush 2018 in December: