AI News, Alexa, Tell Us What You Think of Voice artificial intelligence

Amazon Alexa

It is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, sports, and other real-time information, such as news.[3]

Users are able to extend the Alexa capabilities by installing 'skills' (additional functionality developed by third-party vendors, in other settings more commonly called apps such as weather programs and audio features).

The app can be used by owners of Alexa-enabled devices to install skills, control music, manage alarms, and view shopping lists.[23]

It also allows users to review the recognized text on the app screen and to send feedback to Amazon concerning whether the recognition was good or bad.

Alexa offers weather reports provided by AccuWeather and news provided by TuneIn from a variety of sources including local radio stations, NPR, and ESPN.[24]

Similarly to generating accurate answers to questions, it is possible to design Alexa functions by what the anticipated main line of conversation, the 'happy path,' of most common interactions.[29]As of November 2016[update], the Alexa Appstore had over 5,000 functions ('skills') available for users to download,[30]

which provides enhanced accuracy for users asking questions of Alexa related to math, science, astronomy, engineering, geography, history, and more.

With the introduction of Amazon Key in November 2017, Alexa also works together with the smart lock and the Alexa Cloud Cam included in the service to allow Amazon couriers to unlock customers' front doors and deliver packages inside.[45]

According to an August 2018 article by The Information, only 2 percent of Alexa owners have used the device to make a purchase during the first seven months of 2018 and of those who made an initial purchase, 90 percent did not make a second purchase.[46]

Alexa for Business is a paid subscription service allowing companies to use Alexa to join conference calls, schedule meeting rooms, and custom skills designed by 3rd-party vendors.[52]

In February 2019, Amazon further expanded the capability of Blueprints by allowing customers to publish skills they've built with the templates to its Alexa Skill Store in the US for use by anyone with an Alexa-enabled device.

Amazon allows device manufacturers to integrate Alexa voice capabilities into their own connected products by using the Alexa Voice Service (AVS), a cloud-based service that provides APIs to interface with Alexa.

On November 30, 2016 Amazon announced that they will make the speech recognition and natural language processing technology behind Alexa available for developers under the name of Amazon Lex.

There are concerns about the access Amazon has to private conversations in the home and other non-verbal indications that can identify who is present in the home with non-stop audio pick-up from Alexa-enabled devices.[66][67]

Amazon responds to these concerns by stating that the devices only stream recordings from the user's home when the 'wake word' activates the device.

Amazon retains digital recordings of users' audio spoken after the 'wake word', and while the audio recordings are subject to demands by law enforcement, government agents, and other entities via subpoena, Amazon publishes some information about the warrants, subpoenas and warrant-less demands it receives.[69]

Although the man who received the recordings reported the anomaly to Amazon, the company did not notify the victim until German magazine c't also contacted them and published a story about the incident.

The recipient of the recordings contacted the publication after weeks went by following his report with no response from Amazon (although the company did delete the recordings from its server).

When Amazon did finally contact the man whose recordings had been sent to a stranger, they claimed to have discovered the error themselves and offered him a free Prime membership and new Alexa devices by way of apology.[74]

The company dismissed the incident as an 'extremely rare occurrence' and claimed the device 'interpreted background conversation' as a sequence of commands to turn on, record, send the recording, and select a specific recipient.[75]

New Hampshire judge ruled in November 2018 that authorities could examine recordings from an Amazon Echo device recovered from the home of murder victim Christine Sullivan for use as evidence against defendant Timothy Verrill.

at timestamp 16:15:15, Watts was told by the interrogator, 'We know that there's an Alexa in your house, and you know those are trained to record distress,' indicating Alexa may send recordings to Amazon if certain frequencies and decibels (that can only be heard during intense arguments or screams) are detected.[citation needed]

By specifically targeting developers, device-makers and innovative companies of all sizes, Amazon aims at making digital voice assistants more powerful for its users.[169]

The final selection of companies originates from the customer perspective and works backwards, specific elements that are considered for potential investments are: level of customer centricity, degree of innovation, motivation of leadership, fit to Alexa product/service line, amount of other funding raised.[170]

Besides financial support, Amazon provides business and technology expertise, help for bringing products to the market, aid for hard- and software development as well as enhanced marketing support on proprietary Amazon platforms.

7 Key Predictions For The Future Of Voice Assistants And AI

When voice assistants began to emerge in 2011 with the introduction of Siri, no one could have predicted that this novelty would become a driver for tech innovation.

Now nearly eight years later, it’s estimated that every one in six Americans own a smart speaker (Google Home, Amazon Echo) and eMarketer forecasts that nearly 100 million smartphone users will be using voice assistants in 2020. 

Voice interfaces are advancing at an exponential rate in industries of all kinds, ranging from healthcare to banking, as companies are racing to release their own voice technology integrations to keep pace with consumer demand.

Having devices that can decipher these contextual factors make a conversation more convenient and efficient with these devices, but it also shows that developers behind the technology are aiming to provide a more user-centric experience.

In fact, if tech research firm Juniper Research is correct, voice-based ad revenue could reach $19 billion by 2022, thanks in large part to the growth of voice search apps on mobile devices.

As voice search grows in popularity, advertising agencies and marketers expect Google and Amazon will open their platforms to additional forms of paid messages.

Users can ask “What’s on my calendar today?” or “tell me about my day?” and the assistant will dictate commute times, weather, and news information for individual users.

Similarly, for those using Alexa, simply saying “learn my voice” will allow users to create separate voice profiles so the technology can detect who is speaking for more individualized experiences.  We’ve previously discussed the method of using user-centric push notifications as a means to re-engage users with your app, voice technology presents a unique means of distributing push notifications.

As a way to increase user engagement and retention, push notifications simply remind users of the app and display relevant messaging to the user.

These notifications are generally related to calendar appointments or new content from core features.   CES 2019 continued to prove that voice and visual displays are merging into one seamless experience.

With news from Google I/O and Amazon’s re:MARS conferences announcing that assistants will essentially be able to plan an entire evening, for example, find local movie times, buy tickets, book a restaurant reservation and schedule an Uber, concerns regarding payments and sensitive information are valid.

With larger product directories and more information, voice applications enable consumers to use natural language to eliminate or reduce manual effort, making it a lot faster to accomplish tasks. 

Rogers has introduced voice commands to their remotes allowing customers to quickly browse and find their favorite shows or the latest movies with certain keywords, for example, an actor’s name.

Even with just that handful of simple scenarios, it’s easy to see why voice assistants are shaping up to become the hubs of our connected homes and increasingly connected lives.

To build a robust speech recognition experience, the artificial intelligence behind it has to become better at handling challenges such as accents and background noise.

And as consumers are becoming increasingly more comfortable and reliant upon using voice to talk to their phones, cars, smart home devices, etc., voice technology will become a primary interface to the digital world and with it, expertise for voice interface design and voice app development will be in greater demand.

How Alexa Listens for Wake Words

To accomplish this, Amazon uses a combination of fine-tuned microphones, a short memory buffer, and neural net training.

That array gives the devices several abilities, from hearing commands spoken far away, to separating background noise from voices.

Using its multiple microphones, the Echo can pinpoint your location relative to where it’s sitting and listen in that direction while ignoring the rest of the room.

By reducing its capability, Amazon not only gives you more privacy (it’s one less place your voice is stored) but also prevents Echo from listening to entire conversations, limiting its focus to finding the wake word.

Much like other forms of machine learning, Amazon trains its algorithms by feeding it instance after instance of the word Alexa (or Computer, or Echo, depending on which wake word the company is training).

Finally, when the local device decides it did hear the wake word, it begins to record and pass on the audio to Amazon’s cloud servers.

Amazon employs four algorithms: one for each wake word (Alexa, Computer, Echo), and one for Alexa Guard, which treats specific sounds, such as glass shattering, like a wake word.

The company runs the audio through similar pattern matching algorithms used to identify the wake word.

As part of the process when reaching out to the cloud, your Echo includes information about the wake word it heard and checks that database.

After checking for a database match, the company compares the wake word imprint against any other instances coming in at the same time.

It’s unlikely that two people who say Alexa simultaneously would sound exactly alike, so if there’s a match, Amazon knows it’s likely a commercial or TV show and ignores the request.

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