Alexa Infuses Generative AI Into Amazon Smart Homes
Amazon has upgraded its smart home management with generative AI through Alexa. The voice assistant leverages Amazon’s improved large language models (LLM) to better communicate and anticipate users’ needs while making it easier to control and automate smart home devices. The smart home upgrades are a facet of Alexa’s comprehensive generative AI makeover. introduced at the same time.
Generative Smart Home
Generative AI allows Alexa to understand more ambiguous smart home commands. Users will no longer need to use only a set list of specific phrases and device names. For example, saying “Alexa, I’m cold” will prompt Alexa to raise the thermostat temperature. And requesting to turn on “the new light” without specifying the exact location will cause Alexa to infer the desired smart bulb based on context. The voice assistant’s short-term memory has a similarly improved flexibility, making it easier to chain multiple requests into one command. If they like the way that the multiple orders fit together, they can turn it into an Alexa Routine just with their voice, without the app.
The update also extends Alexa’s proactive efforts to help users without being asked. Amazon claims that Alexa takes the initiative on 40% of smart home actions without a user request. With the generative AI upgrade and compatible sensory devices, Alexa will soon be able to adjust lights and other devices based on the natural light, the number of people in a room, and related factors. Amazon has been pushing Alexa in this direction for years. Employing generative AI this way can be tied directly to Alexa tools like Teachable AI’s direct instruction method, Alexa’s latent goal inference, which suggests additional skills to use after a request. For smart home control, Alexa Hunches is built on the same principle, one which Amazon also offered to the makers of third-party devices.
“Customers have connected more than 400 million smart home devices to Alexa, and use Alexa hundreds of millions of times each week to control those devices. We’re excited with how far we’ve come, but we also think this is just the beginning—there’s so much we can do to make the smart home even better. We’re pairing nearly a decade of invention and customer feedback with the latest advancements in generative AI to create homes that are more intuitive, intelligent, and useful than ever before,” Amazon smart home vice president Melissa Cha explained in a blog post. “Asking Alexa to control the lights is one of the most common smart home requests, but imagine if you didn’t have to ask? Soon, with a compatible Echo or motion and ambient light sensor, Alexa will be able to detect the brightness level and activity in a room, and intelligently decide to turn the lights on or off. You no longer need to walk into a dark room and search for a light switch, or even ask Alexa to do it for you.”
Alexa’s internal judgment isn’t the only smart home upgrade. There’s a new device called the Echo Hub, Amazon’s first smart home control panel, on its way. The $180 Echo Hub includes an Alexa speaker and touchscreen for managing and viewing connected devices via voice or touch without having to pull out your phone. That said, the Alexa app is adding a new feature called Map View that creates digital floor plans for pinning devices to specific rooms. The goal is to have an interactive map to provide whole-home control and visibility.
“As customers add more devices to Alexa, managing devices through long lists can get frustrating. You have to remember what group the device is in or its specific name. We thought we could make this easier, and took inspiration from a paradigm many customers use daily: a map,” Cha wrote. “We believe using a map of your home to put devices in context will help you make the most of your technology, and this is just the start. Map View will continue to get better, and make your home even smarter over time. “
Third-party developers aren’t left out of the update either. The new Dynamic Controller and Action Controller tools aim to make integrating compatibility for new devices and technologies easier. Both solutions leverage LLMs in different ways. Dynamic Controller means Alexa can understand unique third-party device features, like unusual light settings. The Action Controller gives the device makers the option to define what their device does so that users can take advantage of the voice assistant’s newly enhanced ability to extrapolate a request from a statement. As an example, Amazon describes how a customer could say, “Alexa, the floor is dirty,” and the voice assistant would grasp that it should activate a robot vacuum. The slate of upgrades aims to advance Alexa’s capabilities as a control hub for connected homes. The move fits with Amazon’s adoption of open standards like Matter to ensure interoperability across brands as smart home technology proliferates.