Amazon wants all of us to stop talking to the Alexa voice assistant so much and get on with living our lives.
It “may surprise you” that Amazon wants you to talk to Alexa less, said Tom Taylor, Alexa’s senior vice president.
“We believe the future of consumer technology is ambient intelligence, which uses artificial intelligence to weave smart devices and services together,” Taylor said at the Web Summit tech conference in Lisbon. “This isn’t just more connected devices. It’s about adding intelligence throughout the system to make devices better.”
Tech giants are all trying to improve their AI assistants so that they can anticipate what humans want and when they want it.
“It’s there when you need it and it goes back in the background when you don’t,” Taylor said, referring to a future version of Alexa. In fact, he said this would be the “next big leap forward” for technology both inside and outside the home.
“It ultimately means that you’ll reach for your phone a little bit less and you’re talking to Alexa less,” Taylor added. “It means that you spend more time looking for the world and the people in it.”
Amazon has already introduced Alexa Routines, which enable people to program Echo and other Alexa-enabled devices to perform certain actions at certain times. For example, turn off the thermostat when everyone leaves the house, or turn on the local news when the alarm goes off in the morning.
These routines can also be triggered by sounds, such as a baby crying, and Amazon offers other stimuli — including visual — according to Taylor. In September, Amazon introduced Ring custom event alerts that can be used to open a garage door when a package arrives, for example.
“With such intelligence all around you, you don’t have to increasingly ask Alexa to do these tasks in your home,” he said.
Amazon anticipates that there will be a lot of different AI assistants in the future, playing different roles in different contexts. A growing number of auto companies and retailers will use Amazon’s tools to develop smart assistants, for example, according to Taylor.
When Amazon introduced Alexa seven years ago, it was able to do 13 relatively simple tasks like playing music. Today there are more than 130,000 Alexa skills, Taylor said, adding that people interact with Alexa billions of times every week.