At a global event in Arlington, Virginia, inside the new HQ2 inaugurated last JuneAmazon presented a new line of smart products for the home and showed new features of Alexawhich thanks to generative artificial intelligence will be able to converse with users in a more natural way.
Introducing the new Echo Show 8Amazon’s third generation smart speaker, Dave Limp (senior vice president of Amazon Devices & Services) explained why Amazon continues to invest resources and money in voice assistants and more generally in connected home products.
“Nine years ago [esattamente quando è stata lanciata Alexa, nda] we had an epiphany – explained Limp -. We realized that almost all investment in the consumer electronics sector was being funneled into mobile phones. This was normal, being a multi-billion dollar market. However, the place where we spend most of our lives, the home, has been practically forgotten. So we worked on the resources we had, namely the Echo and Alexa products, Fire TV and then also Ring, to transform the technology in the home.”
“History is now repeating itself – added Limp -. With artificial intelligence today, the industry is following a similar path. They’re focused on how to apply generative AI to phones and browsers, which certainly makes sense, because that’s where a lot of users are. To date, generative AI has primarily focused on creators, not consumers. But when you have to create artificial intelligence for a home assistant, you have to think about it very differently.”
Dave Limp refers to the fact that an artificial intelligence system like Alexa does not simply provide information but has a very specific task: communicate with other devices in the house at the user’s request. And just as Google cannot afford to generate fake news with Bardits generative AI, because it would undermine the credibility it has gained in web search, Amazon cannot risk transforming Alexa into an unreliable tool when it comes – trivially – to turn on one light instead of another. It would be too high a risk: they are almost there in the world one billion devices connected to Alexa and user interactions amount to tens of millions of times per hour.
“In the last two years we have learned that there are many differences between environmental and personal computing – explained Limp -. One of them is the user interface. When we use the computer or mobile phone, we are always at the same distance from them. But environmental technology [come Alexa, nda] is different: there may be more people in the room or you may be far from the device. Or instead closer than usual.”
For this reason, the information shown on the 8-inch display of the new Echo Show 8, for example, they will change depending on where the user is located. If there is no one around, the Echo Show will show the essentials, such as the time and an indication of the weather, in short, information that can also be consulted remotely. However, if the user is closer, and has facial recognition enabled, a much richer and more “touch-friendly” interface will appear on the display.
Amazon claims that Alexa responses on the new Echo Show 8 will be 40% faster. An increase that aims to improve the “conversation” with the device. In this regard, one of the most important news to come out of the Arlington event concerns precisely the way in which Alexa will be able to express itself more naturally in the future.
Thanks to a new model of generative artificial intelligence – which we know that Amazon has been working on for months – Alexa will soon not simply be able to “speak” – something it already did previously, albeit with limitations regarding the responses it could give – but will actually be able to “chat” with the user as if he were a real person. A “ChatGpt with voice”, in short, to explain it in very simple terms.
Artificial intelligence “Alexa, let’s talk”: the fate of voice assistants is no longer hanging on a timer by Pier Luigi Pisa 20 September 2023
In addition to this, the sensors and camera present on the Echo Show 8, for example, will take advantage the user’s biometric data – facial recognition and more generally its body language – to help Alexa grasp contextual information useful for better interpreting what is said/asked to it.
All this will lead to a more “human” conversation. Alexa’s new feature is called “Alexa, let’s chat” and will be available by the end of the year for US customers, even on previous generation Echoes (even the first one launched in 2014). The “new” Alexa won’t have to be called by name every time – just say “Alexa, let’s chat” at the beginning, precisely, or use facial recognition – will remember tastes and preferences (will be able to answer questions such as “What is my favorite team doing?”) and will be able to provide creative suggestions. Limp showed, for example, how Alexa can write an invitation to friends for a Sunday lunch.
Rohit Prasadlead researcher on the Alexa team, further explained that in the future the nuance of Alexa’s vocal expressions will be more varied: the tone of the virtual voice, in fact, will be different depending on the news it communicates, good or bad for example. Furthermore, thanks to an unprecedented effort, Amazon has unified the different processes that lead to the understanding of language and the processing of responses by Alexa, allowing its voice assistant to understand the user “on the fly” and to underline with expressions “human” – a giggle or a sound indicating amazement – what he is saying.
Alexa’s new capabilities will, obviously, also affect developers of apps and services that interact with Amazon’s voice assistant. The company founded by Jeff Bezos made it known, during the event which took place in Arlington, that it is working with the BMW Group to develop an AI that allows you to converse in a more natural way with your car. Furthermore Heather Zornvice president Alexa Connections & Essentials, announced an interesting collaboration with the platform Character.ai which allows, thanks to generative AI, to converse with illustrious figures of the past and present, based on algorithms trained on the personalities, style and contents produced by the characters in question. The new Alexa will allow you to speak with at least 25 of these (yet unspecified) characters, in a natural way and above all using only your voice.
In addition to the progress made by Alexa, the “heart” and “engine” of the smart home imagined by Amazon, the Seattle company has unveiled new home automation devices arriving in the autumn.
Echo Show 8
Equipped with Amazon’s latest processor – AZ2 – which makes it (according to what Amazon claims) 40% faster than previous generations, the new Echo Show will be available from October 25th at a price of 169.99 euros. It will be available in white and anthracite colors and will feature a new design with curves along the fabric covering and a full-screen glass screen.
The sound performance of this speaker has been improved – says Amazon – thanks to spatial audio. The resolution of the front camera has also been increased – 13 megapixels – to offer better quality during video calls. Echo Show 8 also includes a built-in smart home hub with support for Zigbee, Thread, Bluetooth and Matter.
This new device is proposed as a control panel for a home populated by numerous connected devices. Integration with Alexa allows you to manage all the intelligent elements of the home from the 8-inch touch display, from the lights to the Ring security system. Furthermore, you can view streaming from multiple compatible cameras on the same screen.
Echo Hub can be wall-mounted or used on a shelf (purchasing a stand separately) and you can connect to the internet wirelessly or via cable. It will cost 199.99 euros but it is not yet clear when it will arrive in Italy: you can sign up on the Amazon website to get a notification when you can access pre-orders.
Fire Tv Stick 4K Max e Fire Tv Stick 4K
The Amazon “stick” that brings streaming to TV has reached its second generation and has an updated 2.0 GHz quad-core processor. Compatibility with the Wi-Fi 6E standard promises smoother streaming and lower latency times. The image quality will be top notch thanks to 4K Ultra HD and support for Dolby Vision, HDR and HDR10+ formats. The device’s memory rises to 16GB, double that of the previous version.
At a price of 79.99 euros – pre-order is already available – the new Fire TV Stick 4K Max will also offer a new “ambient mode” which will transform the TV – when not in use – into a digital art gallery, with thousands of works available for free that will be shown on the screen. Amazon states that “over 2,000 free works of art are available, with a collection of artists from France, Spain, Italy, Japan and Australia and works from major institutions, such as the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the Prado Museum of Madrid and the Gallery of Modern Art of Florence”. A new device with slightly lower performance, the Fire TV Stick 4K, is available at a lower price: 69.99 euros.
Eero Max 7
Amazon’s new tri-band mesh Wi-Fi system, which uses TrueMesh technology patented by the Seattle company, is the first to use the Wi-Fi 7 standard and is therefore expected to be faster and more powerful than the previous generation . The new eero Max 7 supports 2.4.5 and 6 GHz radio bands and promises wireless speeds of up to 4.3 Gbps and wired speeds of up to 9.4 Gbps. It has two 10 and two 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet ports and is capable of delivering up to double the wireless throughput of the eero Pro 6E at a longer range, up to 232 m² of coverage.
In line with previous versions, the eero Max 7 is a very easy device to set up. The price is not for all budgets: 699.99 euros, available – says Amazon – “soon” also in Italy.