Alexa Live 2

Amazon Announces ‘Age of Self’ Amid Developer Tool Upgrades at Alexa Live

Amazon’s annual Alexa Live event centered a cavalcade of new and updated features for the voice assistant around making the voice assistant more flexible in pursuit of an “ambient experience.” The announcements touched on smoothing smart home interactions, making Alexa better at sharing devices with other voice assistants, and new ways for developers to share their voice apps and suggest how to use them in Alexa Routines with customers.

Amazon tied a lot of the new Alexa developer features to the Matter standard for digital assistants that is supposed to officially launch this year after several delays. Matter is at the foundation of the company’s interoperability ideals, where customers can use any brand of smart device with any voice assistant. Here are a few of the biggest reveals from Alexa Live worth highlighting.

Ambient Alexa Home

Amazon has always pitched Alexa to customers as an ideal center for connecting smart home devices. At Alexa Live, Amazon introduced the Alexa Ambient Home Developer’s Kit to encourage diffusing that center throughout the entire smart home instead. The new Dev Kit is actually five APIs blended for a more uniform set of interactions with customers. The API for Credentials and API for Multi-Admin Simple Setup are both tied to Alexa’s new Matter compatibility. They simplify setup by discarding the need to add the internet network name and password for every device and allow third-party app management of devices via Amazon’s cloud services, respectively.

The other facets of the Ambient Home Developer Kit include the Home State API for detecting whether residents are home and what they are doing. For instance, Alexa might learn how to adjust lighting or home security measures based on when people are sleeping or out for the day. The Safety & Security APIs add a new sound alert feature to Echo devices, giving them the same ability to react to smoke or carbon monoxide alarms. The Device & Group Organization API syncs the names of Alexa and third-party app devices and groups automatically,.

“Ambient intelligence should always be there when you need it then fade in the background when you don’t need it,” Aaron Rubenson, Amazon vice president of Alexa voice service and Alexa skills told Voicebot in an interview. “This is a big vision, and we’ve recognized from the beginning that we can’t do it by ourselves, and we don’t want to.”

The Matter standard is also the keystone for the new Alexa Connect Kit SDK for Matter, which extends ACK’s services to Matter-compatible devices. The SDK extends Amazon’s cloud connections, over-the-air updates, and back-end analytics to non-Alexa devices if they adhere to the Matter standard. Similarly, Amazon is extending Alexa’s Frustration-Free Setup feature to devices that don’t rely on Alexa.

Alexa Age of Self

Alexa’s autonomous and proactive functions have evolved significantly over the last few years, as highlighted during the event with a demonstration of how Alexa’s Conversation Mode skips the need for a wake word to begin interacting with Alexa. The Age of Self for the voice assistant is shorthand for three pillars; Alexa’s self-awareness, self-learning, and self-service. That means understanding what is happening around it in the physical world, its ability to grow and learn without human interaction, and a design for conversational AI that customers can grasp well enough to customize or build their own voice app without any programming training.

“Advances such as Conversation Mode are examples of a broader trend in AI, a trend that is ushering in what I like to call the age of self in artificial intelligence, an age in which AI becomes more generalizable and more autonomous,” Alexa AI vice president of natural understanding Prem Natarjan explained during Alexa Live. “In this emerging age of self, AI agents like Alexa will become more self-aware and more capable of self-learning. They will also increasingly lend themselves to self-service by experienced and novice developers and even by end customers.”

The benefits of Alexa’s Age of Self for customers aren’t entirely clear, as Voicebot founder Bret Kinsella pointed out. But, Amazon clearly believes it’s a concept worth pursuing.


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