On September 25, Amazon held its annual Devices & Services Event at its Seattle headquarters, where they announced the company’s newest products and innovations. Among those announcements were a number of updates to Alexa’s AI capabilities, which aim to make an already-smart speaker assistant even smarter.
Here are three of Alexa’s most noteworthy AI updates:
1. Alexa Hunches
First announced in September 2018, Hunches is designed to keep the user more in tune with their home’s smart devices by predicting behaviors and informing them of potential issues with their home’s integration system. The feature began as a way to predict a user’s behaviors by detecting whether a connected device isn’t in the user’s preferred state, suggesting, for example, that the user turns off a light that’s still on after they say “good night.”
The newest innovation to this feature includes the ability to detect whether something is wrong with a connected device, such as low batteries in a smart lock. Hunches can also start suggesting routines by monitoring regular actions from the user, like turning on the coffee maker each morning or asking for the news each evening.
This feature is on by default. To use Hunches, just ask Alexa something like, “Do you have any hunches?”, or let her keep track of your daily actions and suggest one for you when it’s time to follow your routine.
2. Celebrity Voices
Although much of Amazon’s newest updates aim to improve utility and convenience, Amazon hasn’t forgotten about those consumers who put entertainment first. One of Alexa’s newest entertainment updates is the ability to mimic celebrity voices, starting with actor Samuel L. Jackson.
This feature is now possible due to recent advances in Amazon’s neural text-to-speech technology, which already powers Alexa. Jackson’s fans can ask him to tell a joke, share the weather forecast and answer a question, allowing a new voice to take Alexa’s place.
Jackson’s voice will be available for purchase later this year at a starting price of $0.99, which will increase to $4.99 by year’s end. Although Jackson’s is currently the only celebrity voice that has been announced so far, Amazon has suggested that more famous voices are likely to come to Alexa.
3. Doorbell Concierge
Further improving Alexa’s integration capabilities, Doorbell Concierge is an all-new smart security feature that allows Alexa to answer your front door and communicate with visitors via Ring’s video doorbells.
Doorbell Concierge uses conversation technology typically seen when interacting with Alexa to act as a custom concierge, taking messages for the homeowner, asking for contact information from visitors, and telling a delivery person where to leave a package, just to name a few features. Unlike other smart assistants, which are built around requests from the user, Doorbell Concierge introduces the idea of a smart assistant with agency, featuring the ability to execute conversations without a direct request.
According to Ring representatives, the company will begin rolling out Doorbell Concierge to Video Doorbell Elite users next year.
Photos courtesy of Amazon.