Amazon’s popular Alexa digital assistant is about to be supercharged with the powers of generative artificial intelligence, the company said on Wednesday, as the tech giant steps into the AI race dominated by ChatGPT, Google and Microsoft.
Voice assistants like Alexa or Apple's Siri are often designated as perfect candidates to have their sometimes-glitchy and robot-like technology streamlined with capabilities of generative AI.
Generative AI, such as used in the ChatGPT chatbot, delivers content as complex as a poem or scholarly essay in just seconds, and Amazon's goal is that Alexa could do that and even more with verbal commands from a user's living room or kitchen.
At an event at the company's offices near Washington, the company said that an English-language version of Alexa AI would be made available as an opt-in on all its devices in the United States in the coming months.
"It's going to take some time to integrate these technologies into the surface area that is Alexa. But I am super optimistic that we are off to a wonderful an excellent start," said Dave Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president of devices and services.
With the change, Alexa will be able to converse with a more personable style and drop its robotic tone, the company said.
Alexa would also tap into real-time information and create the semblance of a personal rapport with users that would include an awareness of their habits or favorite sports teams.
"For example, you could say 'Alexa every morning at 8 am turn on the coffee machine, open the blinds, dim the lights in the study and play my morning news,' and boom -- it creates the routine," Limp said.
While widely plugged as the next stage of consumer technology, in the past decade Alexa and its connected smart home devices have yet to become big money spinners for Amazon, with Google and Apple also struggling to make traction in the space.
Daniel Rausch, the executive in charge of Alexa, told reporters that the AI would put an extra emphasis on accuracy and that its efforts in AI were not comparable with chatbots that have been shown to output inaccuracies or go off the rails.
"Accuracy in smart home means yes, we did turn on the right light, we did lock the right door, we are sure about the state of the security system," he said.
At the launch event, Amazon also introduced its latest Echo 8 smart home hub as well as a soundbar for televisions and new AI-fueled search capabilities on its FireTV service.
Limp, Amazon's longtime device chief, is retiring after more than a decade in the role amid reports he will be replaced by a senior executive from Microsoft.
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