Amazon’s Alexa gets a new brain on Echo, becomes smarter via AI and aims for ambience


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Meet Alexa and the new Echo brain. 

Amazon

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.

That processor building block along with Amazon’s artificial intelligence advances are designed to make Echo more ambient. Dave Limp, senior vice president of devices and services at Amazon, said the new Echo devices are designed to make “moments count.”

Features such as Reading Sidekick, designed to help kids read, and conversational improvements are aimed at making Alexa more of a family member without as many “Alexa” words.

Rohit Prasad, vice president and head scientist for Alexa Artificial Intelligence at Amazon, outlined the following capabilities:

  • Alexa can take interaction cues and note errors and then connect them.
  • Learn from humans by asking follow up questions when Alexa has a gap in knowledge about returns and learned modes.
  • Deep learning space parsers to understand gaps and extract new concepts.
  • More natural conversation and adaptation.
  • Follow-up mode when interacting with humans.

Prasad noted that Alexa can use visual and acoustic cues to determine the best action to take. “This natural turn taking allows people to interact with Alexa at their own pace,” said Prasad.

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Rohit Prasad teaching Alexa. 

Amazon

Chasing the ambient dream starting with the home

Limp’s talk outlined the new Echo devices and Echo Show 10, but the overall theme was that these devices can follow you around the room like a person would.

In addition, Alexa is going to be more interconnected with services.

Add it up and Limp said the new neural processors are all running locally but can tell when there’s motion. Limp added that Echo devices like Show can use smart motion as well as visual cues to keep you centered.

There’s also a business use where there’s Amazon Chime and Zoom integration and the ability to handle group calls.

Today the Echo launch is all about a smarter Alexa and making her a part of your family. Rest assured, Alexa for Business is going to fast follow for next-gen working arrangements and hybrid offices.

 Amazon rolled out Alexa for Business more than a year ago and has steadily added features via AWS. Skill Blueprints were launched in April 2018 as a way to allow anyone to create skills and publish them to the Alexa Skills Store with a 2019 update.  

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