Prison » Amazon’s Alexa Upgrades Give the Voice Assistant New Listening Powers

September 24, 2018

The new feature, announced by Amazon today alongside new devices including a microwave and a wall clock at an event in Seattle, is one of several upgrades that will expand the virtual assistant’s ability to listen to and understand the world around it. Alexa will able to confer with you in whispers before the end of the year, making Amazon’s voice-operated assistant less awkward to use when someone is, say, sleeping nearby. Amazon will also make its assistant capable of listening for trouble such as breaking glass or a smoke alarm when you’re away from home, a feature called Alexa Guard.

Meanwhile, inside Amazon’s labs, the company is experimenting with giving Alexa a rudimentary form of emotional awareness, enabling it to listen for the sound of frustration in a person’s voice.

“We’re going beyond recognizing words,” says Rohit Prasad, the vice president who heads work on the artificial intelligence inside Alexa’s guts.

Alexa was an oddity when it launched late 2014 inside the cylindrical Echo speaker. It’s now the leader in a rapidly expanding voice assistant market. Amazon is cagey with numbers but says it sold tens of millions of Echos and other Alexa-enabled devices last holiday season, and rivals like Google and Apple have competing smart speakers of their own.

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This article was posted: Monday, September 24, 2018 at 8:36 am

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