New Alexa update with generative AI and additional costs

A significant overhaul of the virtual assistant introduces an advanced service with artificial intelligence, which could include paid features and personalization for users

The revamp includes the incorporation of generative artificial intelligence into Alexa services

Amazon is working on a major revamp of its Alexa voice service, according to a report revealed by several inside sources. The company is considering implementing a more advanced virtual assistant called “Remarkable Alexa,” which will incorporate generative artificial intelligence and could have two levels of service, one of which would cost between $5 and $10 per month.

The project, known internally as “Banyan,” would mark the first major update to Alexa since its launch in 2014 alongside Echo devices. The new version seeks to offer smarter and more personalized assistance to users.

SEE ALSO: How to turn on Low Power mode on Alexa to save energy at home with an Echo

Amazon has set a target for August and CEO Andy Jassy himself has taken a personal interest in revitalizing Alexa. In a letter to shareholders in April, Jassy promised a “smarter and more capable” Alexa, without elaborating further at the time.

A new, more advanced virtual assistant called Remarkable Alexa is being considered
A new, more advanced virtual assistant called Remarkable Alexa is being considered. Blake/Illustration/REUTERS

While Amazon’s plans for Alexa could change, the company has already integrated generative artificial intelligence into several components of the service and is working to roll it out at scale to more than half a billion Alexa-enabled devices in homes around the world, according to an Amazon spokeswoman.

Alexa’s service has been used primarily to answer simple questions, control home devices, and provide weather information, but it has never been cost-effective. Competition with other giants such as GoogleMicrosoft, and Apple has motivated Amazon to put effort into this project, especially after the rise of artificial intelligence tools such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which has attracted a lot of attention.

Some employees see the Banyan project as a desperate attempt to revitalize the service, which has struggled to stay competitive in the market and generate significant sales, according to statements. In addition, the paid service could include advanced features such as composing emails, food orders and further personalization, although there is skepticism about whether users would be willing to pay for something that is currently free.

Amazon is also looking to improve home automation through Remarkable Alexa. The improved version could learn from users’ preferences to perform routine tasks automatically, although this would require the purchase of more Alexa-enabled devices.

Alexa Remarkable could include monthly service tiers between $5 and $10
Alexa Remarkable could include monthly service tiers between $5 and $10. REUTERS/Steve Marcus/File Photo

Alexa’s Amazing Evolution: From Basic Assistant to Smart Home Brain

Alexa was developed by Amazon Lab126 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and its development began in 2013. The team was inspired by computers in the Star Trek series that had natural voice interfaces.

Alexa was initially launched as a service associated with the Amazon Echo smart speaker in November 2014. At the time, its primary functions were to answer questions, play music, create to-do lists, and set alarms.

In the years that followed, Alexa was constantly updated with new capabilities, such as smart home device control, audiobook playback, voice shopping, and new skills developed by third parties.

In 2017, Amazon opened up Alexa to third-party developers, allowing thousands of “skills” (voice apps) to be created. It also made its way to new devices such as tablets, TVs, and headphones.

Today, Alexa is available in dozens of countries and integrates with tens of thousands of smart home devices. It’s one of the most popular virtual assistants, competing with Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, and others.

(With information from Reuters)



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