Alexa Unleashes Personalized Routines, AI Storytelling for Kids and More Smart Home Control
Amazon introduced a cascade of new and upgraded Alexa features at its annual hardware event this year. The new experiences emphasize how users can adapt Alexa to their personal preferences and needs, even to the extent of using interactive AI with kids to collaborate on a children’s story. while reducing the time and energy needed to manage smart home devices.
Amazon centered many of the new features around its pursuit of “ambient intelligence.” The idea is to make Alexa as intuitive, proactive, and personalized as possible. For instance, an upcoming ‘smart home suggestions’ feature primes Alexa to send alerts to Echo owners when there are indications of issues like a front door being unlocked with no one home. Alexa can forward the alert to their phone or Echo Auto device if they are driving and even ask Alexa to lock the door if there’s a connected device. An already available new feature enables Alexa to understand time-based requests. That means owners can ask the voice assistant to turn off a TV in half an hour or specify a time like 10 p.m. A new accessibility feature should also help widen access to Alexa, as it can now support remote smart switches, linking Alexa commands to the switch instead of requiring wired hardware as before. The accessibility boost also extends to the new live captioning option for mobile Alexa apps when dropping in or making calls.
Relatedly, the Alexa Together service for caregivers and families keeping an eye on older loved ones will now mark more events, up to 10 custom alerts for when lights turn on in the middle of the night or the door is left unlocked when they leave the room. Echo Show smart display owners will a more comprehensive view of their own home too. The Echo Show 5 has room to display two views simultaneously, and the larger ones can support up to four at once. The Echo Show 15’s screen has also added Fire TV as an option, blurring the smart TV and smart display line. Alexa’s ambient function has already reached the point where it anticipates requests before they are issued quite a lot. The voice assistant activates nearly a third of smart home device interactions without an order from a human, and around 90% of daily Alexa routines are begun autonomously, according to Amazon devices and services business senior vice president Dave Limp. The timing commands, switches, and proactive suggestions all fit that pursuit.
“There is a paradigm shift happening in consumer electronics: Technology needs to be personalized and intuitive enough to adapt to you and your environment—not the other way around. We call this ambient intelligence,” Limp said in the presentation. “[We’re] seeing the golden age of artificial intelligence unfold before our very eyes. I often say the best part of my job is getting to live in the future.” And, that’s never been truer than with ambient intelligence.”
Personalized Routines, Shopping, Videos
Pursuing ways of making it easy to mold Alexa to each person has led to a new option for personalizing Alexa Routines, not just for the household but for each person in it. Two people on the same account could say good morning to Alexa to activate a wake-up routine, yet hear about only their own schedule and friend updates. In case Alexa leaves something out, Alexa also now lets people record ‘video sticky notes’ that will be available only for that person. Amazon has enhanced Alexa’s role in voice commerce as well. Growing Alexa’s capabilities in voice commerce right now makes sense since more than half of Alexa customers have used it for shopping, according to Amazon Alexa vice president Heather Zorn said. The new Shop the Look feature puls images lets Echo Show owners ask about different clothes and see them on the display. The voice assistant is pre-trained for the feature through the Alexa Teacher Model ahead of time, with a particular focus on Amazon’s products.
“We’re doubling down with Shop the Look, a new feature on Echo Show devices that leverages a breakthrough in how our AI understands and acts on customer references of visual attributes,” Zorn said.
Alexa’s personalized, ambient efforts come to the forefront in a new feature geared toward allowing the voice assistant to collaborate with children on generating a fun story called Creative AI. Kids with an Echo Show can prompt Alexa to enable to feature, which then uses Alexa to guide kids through picking out characters and setting up a narrative based on available prompts. Alexa augments the story with video and music, combining AI logic with childhood creativity.
“Following Alexa’s prompts, kids can select or customize animated characters—like mermaids and astronauts—and Alexa will create a unique story with captivating visuals and music,” Zorn said. “This is made possible by advancements in conversational and generative AI across language and audio—enabling Alexa to generate stories by using context to inform how the story develops. Kids can start creating with Alexa this holiday season with a variety of free story starters.”