Amazon Showers Alexa With Customization and Connection Updates
Amazon’s device and services event centered much of its attention around new robots, flying security drones, and other hardware, but it was new and updated Alexa features wove through the entire presentation. The broad array of improvements kept an underlying theme of personalization and connection that Amazon seems eager to encourage as the voice assistant continues to evolve.
Customized and Organized
The new Echo Show 15 smart display heralded a complete revamp of Amazon’s other displays, all built around letting users design how their device is used. The new custom widgets for the screen include a household calendar, recipe suggestions using saved preferences and dietary limits, a device tracker, and a smart home control hub. Not only can the widgets be adjusted to fit a particular home, but Alexa can also use a smart display camera to recognize who is looking at the display to show their personal events and reminders. That includes the new sticky notes widget where users can create and assign reminders to specific people in their house. Alexa can learn what users like or dislike, refining how it responds through conversations, a function first introduced last year but taken to the next level in the newest update.
“Last year, we introduced the ability for Alexa to detect new concepts in customer requests (e.g., “vacation mode” for thermostat setting), and learn their meaning by seeking more information from the customer,” Alexa head scientist Rohit Prasad explained in a blog post. “Now, we are taking that interactive teaching even further, so Alexa can instantly adapt to directly expressed preferences, including food and sports, allowing you to further personalize your Alexa experience. Through sophisticated dialogue management models enabled by Alexa Conversations, Alexa can extract relevant information from interactions and remember your explicit preferences—for example, “Alexa, I am a vegetarian” or “Alexa, I like the Boston Red Sox”—when you ask for things like recipes, local restaurants, or sports scores.”
Alexa’s interest in connecting every user extends beyond just one home. The new Alexa Together subscription service builds on the Alexa Care Hub feature, which lets people in different households keep track of older relatives. Alexa Together includes an optional Remote Assist feature so that someone can set reminders, shopping lists, and other information from afar. The next update will let multiple family members connect accounts together.
Silent Routines and Custom Sounds
Alexa has been making its Routines more flexible over time, with command customization and alternative phrasing, but the newest update offers routines that don’t even need a voice command to initiate. The newest Echo and Echo Dot include ultrasound detection, so users can set up routines based on motion instead. Walking into a room could turn lights on or off, for example.
Alexa’s speech recognition has grown beyond language to include sounds like snoring and glass breaking for its health and security tools, respectively. Amazon now wants to customize even the non-human audio understanding with the new Custom Sound Event Detection. The idea is to teach the voice assistant to know what sounds it might hear in the house, like a microwave beeping or a garage door opening. The feature only needs a few samples to teach the AI, which can then incorporate a response into a routine. For instance, Alexa might send a text if it hears a kettle boiling or play an alert in the bedroom should the oven beep when pre-heating.
“Through advances in self-learning and self-service coupled with increased self-awareness of the ambient state, we are making our AI-powered services more natural, more useful, and more trustworthy for everyone,” Prasad wrote. ” I look forward to seeing how these innovations enrich the daily lives of our customers and inspire further AI inventions in the years to come. ”