Amazon wants us all to stop talking to its Alexa voice assistant so much and continue living our lives.
Tom Taylor, senior vice president of Alexa, said “it may surprise you” that Amazon wants you to talk less with Alexa.
“We believe that the future of consumer technology is ambient intelligence, which uses AI to merge devices and intelligent services,” Taylor said at the Web Summit Technology Conference in Lisbon. “This is not just more connected devices. It’s about adding intelligence throughout the system to make the devices better.”
The tech giants are all trying to improve their AI assistants so they can predict what people want and when they want it.
“It’s there when you need it, and it goes back into the background when you do not,” Taylor said, referring to a future version of Alexa. In fact, he said this would be “the next big leap forward” for technology inside and outside the home.
“Ultimately, that means you will reach out for your phone a little bit less and you talk less with Alexa,” Taylor added. “It means you spend more time looking up at the world and the people in it.”
Amazon has already introduced Alexa Routines, which allow people to program Echo and other Alexa-enabled devices to perform specific actions at specific times. For example, turning off the thermostat when everyone leaves the house, or turning on 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 is introducing other triggers – including visuals – according to Taylor. In September, Amazon Ring introduced custom event alarms that can be used to open a garage door when, for example, a package arrives.
“With this surrounding intelligence all around you, you increasingly do not have to ask Alexa to perform these tasks around your house,” he said.
Amazon expects that there will be many different AI assistants in the future who perform different roles in different contexts. An increasing number of car companies and dealers will use Amazon’s tools to develop their own intelligent assistants, for example, according to Taylor.
When Amazon introduced Alexa seven years ago, it was able to perform only 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 each week.