You don't have to buy the hardware to appreciate the software — not when it comes to Amazon's Alexa. The popular virtual assistant is one of the major selling points of the Amazon Echo and its growing smart home ecosystem, but now, you can enjoy Alexa a la carte as well. Or rather, in your browser. It's all thanks to a new web app you can access at, and it lets you talk to Alexa directly from your Chrome, Firefox, or browser of choice.

As Amazon tells it, the web app began with a hackathon project from Sam Machin. Now, a few months later, is "a new online community tool for developers that simulates the look and feel of an Amazon Echo." The web app features 3D JavaScript animations and Alexa Voice Service (AVS) integration, allowing users to interact with Alexa and observe her skills and capabilities.

For the first time, users won't have to purchase an Alexa-enabled device to access Alexa. And you still give the virtual assistant commands in the same way you would if you had an Echo, although you'll have to click and hold a button in the web app to have Alexa listen to you (whereas with an Echo, she's always listening, sometimes too frequently).

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Amazon is encouraging both developers and tech enthusiasts alike to take the new web app for a spin, noting, "Its simplicity makes it easy for anyone to understand what an Echo is and what it does without having to explain Alexa's unique UX." This will be the first time that Alexa is made widely accessible, and especially for folks who live outside the U.S. (and consequently cannot purchase an Echo, even if they want to), it's a clever way to market one of Amazon's neater products.

So as long as you've got an Amazon account, you can take Alexa out for a spin — try it for yourself here.