At its 2023 Fall Hardware event, Amazon announced a new Echo Show 8 smart home device alongside improved generative AI-enabled Alexa. Considering nearly a billion devices are connected to Alexa right now, upgrades to the voice-activated assistant are likely to be the main talking point of the keynote.
Dave Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president of devices and services, talked about the foundations of the Alexa language model: it needs to be fast during conversations, accurate in real-world applications, personalized for everyone that uses it, and it should have personality.
During a live example shared from the event, Limp asked what Alexa’s favourite football team is, and it replied, “I’m from Seattle, so my favourite team is the Seahawks. Go, 12th man!” Subsequently, Alexa asked Limp if he planned to have friends over to watch the game and offered suggestions for things to cook. It then composed a message on behalf of Limp to send as an invite to his friends.
“Alexa, talk large language models to me.”😉Our latest LLM has been significantly optimized for voice and the things we know our customers love — like having access to real-time information, efficiently controlling your smart home, and getting the most out of home entertainment. pic.twitter.com/c4yzrrnvBd
— Amazon (@amazon) September 20, 2023
Tonality is also something the new AI-upgraded Alexa will excel at, says Amazon. According to the tech giant, Alexa will speak more human-like and less like a robot, with expressive voice and emotions, and even add in the occasional ‘uhh’ or ‘uhm.’
Additionally, Alexa can detect a user’s body language, like eye contact. This allows the voice-activated assistant to learn that you’re looking at it and will listen to your commands without speaking the “Alexa” trigger word.
For smart home simplicity, Alexa can interact with various APIs to enable new capabilities, such as adjusting the lighting, temperature and security settings based on the user’s preferences and environment. Users would no longer need to speak out detailed commands, like “Alexa, turn on the iRobot vacuum.” Instead, users would be able to say “Alexa, the floor is dirty,” and your Alexa-enabled vacuum will automatically get to work. GE Cync, Philips, GE Appliances, iRobot, Roborock, and Xiaomi are some of the companies Amazon is working with on these features, and it is opening the program up to more developers.
Alexa’s Large Language Model (LLM) “is a true generalizable large language model that’s very optimized for the Alexa use case; it’s not what you find with a Bard or ChatGPT or any of these things,” said Limp an interview with The Verge. “When you connect an LLM to the real world, you want to minimize hallucinations — and while we think we have the right systems in place … there is no substitute for putting it out in the real world.” Hence Amazon will release the Alexa LLM meticulously, and only in the U.S. to begin with.
Amazon says that customers in the U.S. will get access to these new capabilities through a free preview on Echo devices they already own. The generative AI-enabled Alexa will work on nearly all Echo devices, including the original 2014 Echo.
Generative AI Alexa will likely eventually be available in Canada, but it’s unclear when. MobileSyrup will update this story when more information is available.
For all of our stories from Amazon’s keynote, follow this link.