At long last, Amazon brings AI features to Alexa
3 mins read

At long last, Amazon brings AI features to Alexa

Amazon SVOP of Devices and Services Dave Limp presents at the company's 2023 event.Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

Nearly a year after ChatGPT introduced the world to the uncannily human possibilities of generative AI, Amazon has unveiled new Alexa features powered by large language models (LLM). At the annual Amazon Devices Event hosted at its new Arlington, Virginia, headquarters, the company announced some major Alexa improvements that will attempt to make replies much more conversational and lifelike, with less waiting time between your interactions and more meaningful replies.

A new feature called Let’s Chat mimics the ChatGPT experience by allowing you to have a fluid conversation with Alexa, asking questions about everything from the voice assistant’s football team allegiance to recipes. You can even ask it to write emails for you. In the demo with Dave Limp, outgoing senior vice president of devices and services, Alexa sometimes stalled and needed a second prompt to answer questions, suggesting the feature may still need some polish.

One of the most impressive parts of the new models is Alexa’s ability to adapt its responses based on the kinds of conversations you’re having. For instance, Alexa will be able to adjust delivery based on emotion, jokes, and preferences. Say your favorite sports team lost the big game, and you ask Alexa what the score is the next day. The voice assistant may respond with an assuring tone, along with some positive info about the team (and the score, of course).

Amazon SVP of Devices and Services Dave Limp demonstrates the Let's Chat feature of Alexa, powered by AI.Phil Nickonson / Digital Trends

Improved learning models will also allow Alexa to remember previous conversations you’ve had with the voice assistant, with responses tailored around subjects and interactions you’ve discussed before. And if you’re enrolled in facial recognition for compatible smart displays, you’ll also be able to use your Echo Show devices without having to issue new voice prompts. That means no more preceding every question with “Alexa.”

Large language models will allow Alexa to draw inferences, rather than relying on specific trigger phrases. For instance, “Alexa, turn on the new light in the living room” will allow you to trigger a device without knowing its name, based on context rather than an explicit cue.

For customers with a large number of devices, a new feature called Map View will also do away with endless device lists in favor of a map of your home, with the location of various devices pinned on top. You’ll be able to trigger them directly from the map or use it as a dashboard to view their status. Map View will feature prominently on the new Echo Hub, which is designed as a one-stop-shop for smart home control.

Explore with Alexa, a new part of the paid Kids+ content service, offers a large language model specifically tailored for children. It only references trusted sources like the World Wildlife Federation, and it will even reframe facts as trivia questions to make them more palatable to young audiences.

Amazon did not offer firm details on when the new version of Alexa with AI features enabled will roll out, but suggested a free preview will be available to U.S. customers “soon.”

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