Alexa Head Scientist Rohit Prasad Promoted to Lead Alexa Overall
Amazon has promoted senior vice president and Alexa head scientist Rohit Prasad to the leader for all of Alexa, the first AI scientist in the role. Prasad took up the reins of Alexa following the departure of Alexa COO Debra Chrapaty and the retirement of Alexa senior vice president Tom Taylor this summer.
Prasad joined Amazon to work on Alexa ahead of its launch in 2013 as director of machine learning after more than a decade working on speech and voice technologies at Raytheon. He moved up to Alexa head scientist and senior vice president in 2016 and is keeping his current titles despite his expanded responsibilities overseeing all aspects of the voice assistant. It’s notable that he has been intimately involved in developing the technology behind voice assistants, particularly Alexa, before being put in charge of it. That’s different from his predecessors in the role. Chrapaty, who left Amazon to become the CTO at Toast in June, has long led technology developers but came out of business school, while Taylor, who retired in July after five years in the role and 22 years at Amazon, has an engineering background but always worked more in operations. His predecessor, Greg Hart, was a technical advisor to former Amazon CEO Jeffrey Bezos before becoming vice president for Alexa, Echo, and speech in 2011, moving to video in 2017 and leaving for Compass in 2020, where he is now COO.
Prasad has frequently discussed how Star Trek and its smart, voice-enabled computer have inspired him. His vision of Alexa and its future point have emphasized ideas like making Alexa more proactive, universal access through “ambient AI,” and a multi-modal interface where Alexa can understand visual as well as vocal interactions. He also has a clear understanding of the more sensational side of the technology that draws attention and interest judging from the response to how he introduced an upcoming synthetic speech feature by showing a video of a child having Alexa read a story to him in the voice of his grandmother who had passed away.
“I’m sure it’s counterintuitive to hear from someone who has built their career in consumer technology and AI, but I believe we should be thinking about technology less. Instead, we should focus on experiences that make your life simpler, not more complex. We want to free up hours in our customers’ everyday lives and reduce their cognitive loads, so they can spend more time with the people and things that matter most to them,” Prasad explained in an internal interview with Amazon. “In many ways, the Alexa of today is already far more powerful than that Star Trek computer that inspired me. However, as we say at Amazon, it is still Day 1. We have an ambitious vision, and I’m optimistic that we will continue delighting and delivering more value to our customers.”