Amazon is making Alexa smarter with natural turn taking, having conversations with multiple people, natural language understanding and the ability to be taught by customers. The first target is the smart home, but Alexa for Business is also likely to follow. The Alexa overhaul and artificial intelligence improvements were outlined as Amazon launched its latest batch of Echo devices. Amazon's new Echo devices are evolving to be more smart home edge computing devices. For instance, Amazon's Echo devices are using the company's AZ1 Neural Edge processor with 20x less power, double the speech processing and 85% lower memory usage.
When Amazon released the Echo smart speaker in 2014, people still marveled at the convenience of voice-controlled computing. Now that the novelty has worn off, they are more likely to grumble about how often Alexa gets confused. Now, Amazon has a plan to make Alexa smarter--with you as the teacher. For some commands, Alexa will soon seek clarification if it gets confused. Ask to set the lights to "reading mode," for example, and the device will politely inquire what that means.
Alexa is already one smart cookie. The perennially popular smart assistant from Amazon has quickly become one of the most popular helpers on the market, and is capable of helping its users with everything from controlling their smart homes to answering pressing questions about life to making announcements to the household. But according to Rohit Prasad, the vice president and head scientist of the Alexa division at Amazon, we ain't seen nothin' yet. In fact, according to an interview with Prasad published in the Amazon blog, his team has only "scratched the surface of what's possible." Prasad leads Alexa's research and development in speech recognition, natural language understanding, and machine learning technologies, all in hopes of bettering users' experiences with Echo devices.
Amazon's naked ambition to become part of everyone's daily lives was on full display this week at its annual hardware event. It announced a slew of new Alexa-powered devices, including a home surveillance drone, a suite of Ring-branded car alarm systems, and miscellany like an adorable little kids' Echo device. But it's clear Amazon's strategy has shifted, even if only for a product cycle, from going wide to going deep. Last year, Amazon baked its virtual assistant into any household device that could accommodate a chip. Its list of new widgets with Alexa seemed a mile long and included a menagerie of home goods, like lamps and microwaves.
Amazon Alexa will soon notice if you talk to it sotto voce--and whisper its response back to you. The new feature, announced by Amazon today alongside new devices including a microwave and a wall clock at an event in Seattle, is one of several upgrades that will expand the virtual assistant's ability to listen to and understand the world around it. Alexa will able to confer with you in whispers before the end of the year, making Amazon's voice operated assistant less awkward to use when someone is, say, sleeping nearby. Amazon will also make its assistant capable of listening out for trouble such as breaking glass or a smoke alarm when you're away from home, a feature called Alexa Guard. Meanwhile, inside Amazon's labs, the company is experimenting with giving Alexa a rudimentary form of emotional awareness, enabling it to listen for the sound of frustration in a person's voice.