Amazon wants us all to stop talking to its Alexa voice assistant so much and get on with living our lives.
Tom Taylor, senior vice president of Alexa, said “it may surprise you” that Amazon wants you to talk to Alexa less.
“We believe that the future of consumer technology is ambient intelligence, which uses AI to weave together devices and intelligent services,” Taylor said at the Web Summit tech conference in Lisbon. “This isn’t just more connected devices. It’s about adding intelligence throughout the system to make the devices better.”
The tech giants are all trying to improve their AI assistants so that they can anticipate what humans want and when they want it.
“It’s there when you need it and recedes into the background when you don’t,” Taylor said in reference to a future version of Alexa. Indeed, he said this would be the “next big leap forward” for technology inside and outside the home.
“Ultimately this means that you’ll reach for your phone a little bit less and you’re talking to Alexa less,” Taylor added. “It means you’re spending more time looking up at the world and the people in it.”
Amazon has already introduced Alexa Routines, which enables people to program Echo and other Alexa-enabled devices to perform certain actions at certain times. For example, turning off the thermostat when everyone leaves the house, or turning on local news when the alarm goes off in the morning.
These routines can also be triggered by sounds, such as a baby crying, and Amazon is introducing other triggers — including visual ones — according to Taylor. In September, Amazon introduced Ring custom event alerts that can be used to open a garage door when a package arrives, for example.
“With this ambient intelligence all around you, increasingly you don’t have to ask Alexa to do these tasks around your house,” he said.
Amazon expects there to be lots of different AI assistants in the future, performing different roles in different contexts. An increasing number of car companies and retailers will use Amazon’s tools to develop their own intelligent assistants, for example, according to Taylor.
When Amazon introduced Alexa seven years ago, it was able to do just 13 relatively simple tasks like playing music. Today, there are more than 130,000 Alexa skills, Taylor said, adding that people interact with Alexa billions of times each week.