AI device Alexa should know what user wants and give advice like a trusted friend, its chief scientist says

  • Rohit Prasad made the comments at the Web Summit in Lisbon yesterday
  • The tech giant is envisioning a home with various sensors in each room, he said
  • The vice president said that the intention was for Alexa to ‘simplify your life’

If you thought Alexa was only there to tell you the weather or who scored in the football, think again.

Amazon now envisions its virtual assistant becoming a ‘trusted adviser and companion’, and ‘anticipating’ what we want to do, according to its chief scientist.

Speaking at the Web Summit in Lisbon yesterday, Rohit Prasad said: ‘If I ask Alexa, what hike should I do? Just like a friend, because it knows me, Alexa should tell me: you should do this hike.’

If you thought Alexa was only there to tell you the weather or who scored in the football, think again

The tech giant is envisioning a home with various sensors in each room – from microphones to ultrasound – working in the background, he said.

Alexa would then connect all these sensors and ‘anticipate your need to complete actions on your behalf’.

Mr Prasad, vice president and head scientist at Amazon, said the intention was for Alexa to ‘simplify your life and reduce cognitive burden’, allowing users to spend more time with friends and experience life.

He said: ‘If you wake up in the morning, turn off your alarm, ask for traffic, play your music… can Alexa automate all those actions where you just say “Alexa, good morning” and then just does those automatically on your behalf.’ 

Speaking at the Web Summit in Lisbon yesterday, Rohit Prasad said: ‘If I ask Alexa, what hike should I do? Just like a friend, because it knows me, Alexa should tell me: you should do this hike’

Though this is an ‘incredibly hard challenge’, he said it had already begun. He revealed: ‘More than 30 per cent of interactions in smart home control are now all Alexa initiated without an explicit voice request.’ 

Mr Prasad said Amazon was also experimenting how to change the emotional tone of Alexa’s voice depending on the answer.

For example, if a user asks what their sports teams score was, Alexa will be ‘enthusiastic’ when they win and ‘not as upbeat’ if they lose.

He said: ‘Certain customers, especially kids and elderly adults, are using Alexa in many different ways, where it’s really a companion.’

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