Amazon Catches Up with Alexa Generative AI, Unveils New Hardware
Updated: Dec 30, 2023
[Edited] In a bid to compete with chatbots like Google's Bard, Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) has introduced a range of new and refreshed devices while updating its Alexa voice assistant with generative artificial intelligence.
The move aims to attract more users to the product, which has been struggling to turn a profit.
At the company's annual product launch in Arlington, Virginia, Amazon showcased the enhanced capabilities of Alexa. The voice assistant will now engage in more natural conversations, shedding its robotic tone of the past decade. It can now answer questions about football game start times and provide recipe ideas. Additionally, Alexa can compose and recite poems, demonstrating its improved conversational skills.
Since its launch in 2014, Alexa has not been a consistent source of profitability for Amazon. Instead, it has served as a means to drive customers to the company's website for additional purchases. Typically accessed through speakers or enabled televisions, Alexa provides spoken responses to user queries, such as weather updates, and can act as a hub to control home appliances.
The introduction of generative AI chatbots like OpenAI's ChatGPT has prompted Amazon to enhance Alexa's capabilities. These chatbots have gained significant attention from investors, leading to a surge in generative AI startups.
Dave Limp, Amazon's hardware chief, highlighted the advancements in Alexa's conversational abilities at the event, stating, "You can now have near-human-like conversations with Alexa."
Recent reports have indicated that morale among workers in Amazon's hardware unit has suffered due to shifting strategies and concerns over the lack of popular consumer devices. Many of the products currently under development are primarily aimed at expanding Alexa's presence in more rooms of the home, such as a carbon monoxide detector with built-in Alexa functionality.
During the event, Limp demonstrated a new feature for certain Alexa devices, including the refreshed Echo Show 8, which allows users to ask a series of questions without repeatedly using the "Alexa" wake word.
In addition to the advancements in Alexa, Amazon also unveiled refreshed versions of its children's Fire tablets, a soundbar for televisions, and new search capabilities on the FireTV service to find free content.
Among the new devices announced is the Echo Hub, a $180 wall-mounted touchscreen that serves as a central control panel for gadgets throughout the home. Amazon also showcased a new feature in its Alexa app that can map out internet-connected devices in a user's home for easier control.
Other announcements included updates to the Echo Frames eyeglasses, now embedded with Alexa, as well as refreshed versions of the Blink outdoor security cameras and Eero Wi-Fi extenders.
Amazon introduces new and refreshed devices, along with updates to its Alexa voice assistant.
Alexa will engage in more natural conversations and gain the ability to compose and recite poems.
The company aims to make Alexa more profitable as competition grows from generative AI chatbots.