Amazon’s brand new Alexa voice assistant is coming soon, powered by the new Alexa LLM

Amazon’s Alexa is about to come out of its shell, and what comes out could be very interesting. At its fall hardware event on Wednesday, the company revealed a brand new Alexa voice assistant powered by its new Alexa Large Language Model. According to Dave Limp, Amazon’s current SVP of devices and services, this new Alexa can understand conversational phrases and respond appropriately, interpreting context more effectively and fulfilling multiple requests with a single command. Can do.

Voice assistants need a makeover. The general lack of innovation and barely noticeable improvements around understanding have turned them into basic devices rather than the exciting technological advancements we expected when they arrived on the scene a decade ago.

Generative AI has seemed to be their best attempt at survival for some time. But although there has always been an element of AI in these digital assistants, they lack the complex processing capabilities and more human-like interactions that AI is capable of. This is a big moment for the smart home, as it could take home automation to the next level, taking it from a remote control experience to a home that’s truly smart.

in an interview with the verge Ahead of the event, Limp explained that the new Alexa LLM is “a true generalizable large language model that is highly optimized for the Alexa use case; This is not what you find in Bard or ChatGPT or any of those things.”

However, this brand new Alexa isn’t being implemented everywhere, to everyone, all at once. The company is rolling it out gradually through a preview program “in the coming months” — and only in the US. Clearly, lessons have been learned from the missteps of Microsoft and Google and Amazon is proceeding with caution.

The first big change with the new Alexa will be a more conversational assistant

“When you connect LLM to the real world, you want to reduce hallucinations — and even when we think we have the right systems in place… there’s no substitute for bringing it into the real world,” says Limp. ” If you’d like to be notified when you can join the preview, tell your Echo device, “Alexa, let’s chat,” and your interest will be registered.

Not surprisingly, this superpowerful Alexa may not always be free. Limp said that while Alexa, as it is today, will remain free, “the idea of ​​a supernatural assistant that can supercharge your smart home and, more so, complete complex tasks on your behalf, could provide so much utility. “Let’s get on the road to make sure we end up charging something.”

Amazon’s voice assistant is about to get more conversational.
Photo by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy/The Verge

The first big change with the new Alexa will be a more conversational assistant, one that can understand more of what you say and requires less specific naming to do what you ask. This is one of the most common causes of frustration with voice assistants – having to repeat it over and over again when you ask her to turn off the thermostat or she has to respond, “Some things share the name ‘Lights.’ ”Please select a unique name and restart Discovery,” for the 900th time only to see where you left off the remote control.

With the new Alexa, you can say a phrase like “Alexa, I’m cold” and the assistant should raise the temperature on your connected thermostat. Or, as Limp explained, “Say, ‘Alexa, make this room feel like Seahawks colors,’ and it will know what room I’m in and what the Seahawks colors are and make those translations between the APIs.” ”

This superpowerful Alexa may not always be free

Limp says it’s the APIs that matter. “We have included a large number of smart home APIs, over 200, in our LLM.” This data, combined with Alexa’s knowledge of what devices you have in your home and what room you’re in based on the Echo speaker you’re talking to, allows Alexa to manage your smart home more proactively and seamlessly. Will give necessary context to manage.

This contextual understanding will extend beyond knowing what other connected devices you want to control, such as predicting when something has changed in your home. “If you add a new device to your home, you can say, ‘Alexa, turn on the new light,’ and it will know what the new light is. This will make things clearer, so if you install a new smart plug or light, it’ll be easier to control,” explains Limp.

Another new capability is to respond to multiple requests simultaneously. It’s not just the basic things it can already do (to a certain extent), like “Alexa turn off the lights and lock the door.” This is more advanced. “You can say, ‘Alexa, turn on the sprinklers and open my garage door, and turn off the outside lights,’ and it will all figure out,” Limp says.

This capability will extend to instantly creating routines in the Alexa app – entirely through voice, without any manual programming. “I set it up for my child this morning by simply saying, ‘Alexa, turn on the lights every morning at 8 a.m., play wake-up music for my child in his bedroom, and start the coffeemaker,'” says Limp. “It can be as complex and obscure as you want, and instantly, it’s going to pop up as a routine in your app.”

Limp says that initially, the multiple commands feature will only work with a subset of device types — including lights, smart plugs, and a few others. But the team is working towards connecting everything.

Possibly soon, Amazon-owned Roomba is joining Alexa’s new AI capabilities thanks to a new developer program that lets device makers survey its AI capabilities to allow more conversational commands.
Photo by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy/The Verge

Developers will also be able to take advantage of Alexa’s new cognitive functions and integrate their products and services into this more interactive format. Amazon is introducing two tools that allow the new Alexa to control some unique features of third-party manufacturer products that aren’t necessarily in Amazon’s smart home ecosystem toolkit. These are called dynamic controllers and action controllers.

The Dynamic Controller will enable features like prebuilt scenes for lighting control to come out more naturally. So, if you have GE sync-colored light bulbs and say, “Alexa, make it look scary here,” Alexa will know what to do without you having to program the routine or import the scene into the Alexa app.

Similarly, the Action Controller allows developers to add simple actions that Alexa can act on. For example, if you say, “Alexa, the floor is dirty,” the assistant will know that you want the robot vacuum to do the work.

Amazon says it’s already working with GE Sync, Philips, GE Appliances, iRobot, Roborock, and Xiaomi on these features, and developers can sign up now to request participation. Amazon’s developer blog has more details about the new capabilities and tools.

“We’ve come a long way, baby.” The original Echo smart speaker arrived in 2014.
Photo by Sean O’Kane/The Verge

Limp says this is the beginning of a new journey for Alexa. “We’ve built a new generative AI LLM that will power many areas of Alexa over time, including a bunch of new smart home experiences,” he says. “The first bucket is to try to simplify these everyday tasks.” It will be an interesting journey to see where it goes next.

The new Alexa LLM-powered voice assistant will first launch in preview in the US and will be available to anyone with an Echo device. Amazon hasn’t announced a date for the preview, and the new Alexa Alexa-powered smart home features will be part of an additional invitation-only preview. You can request an invite after being part of the preview. Amazon says these will be available at a later date.

Update, Thursday, September 21 at 9:20 am: Added details on how developers can sign up to integrate their devices and services with Alexa LLM.

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