Who wants the first part of the Alexa alphabet: Amazon’s Mickey Mouse – from A to L
Employee: According to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, in 2016 around 1,000 employees worked exclusively on Alexa and related products. A year later, according to official information from Amazon already over 5,000. Compared to the 575,000 people employed by the mail order company worldwide, this is only a tiny fraction. Compared to most other electronics manufacturers, “Alexa Inc.” but huge. Manufacturers such as the fitness specialist Fitbit with 1,700 employees can no longer keep up with the development speed of Amazon.
New hits: In the future, Alexa should control the entire household of Amazon customers and make it more comfortable – and still deliver more data to the online retailer. At the end of September, Amazon introduced, among other things, a wall clock, a security camera and, as the most bizarre novelty, a microwave with voice control. Alexa should cook from the end of 2018 so also for their owners! If you can afford the Amazon Basic Microwave, which costs only $ 60 (52 euros), you do not have to enter any complicated values like “Six minutes at 100 percent” – but you just add Alexa: “Please warm the baked potato ” or “Dew (please) 300 grams of broccoli!”. The artificial intelligence then sets exactly the right program. “We envision a future where there are thousands of such devices,” says Amazon’s hardware chief David Limp.
Ears too! Anyone who appreciates the comfort of Alexa, but does not want to be eavesdropped around the clock, can deactivate speech recognition on the Echo devices. There is a separate button with a crossed-out microphone on the hardware. He acts – apparently without influence of Amazon – directly on the built-in microphones and thus offers high security. Privacy advocates anyway: Who actually invites Alexa home, should only activate the microphones, if he really needs the speech recognition. Although this is less practical, it protects privacy. Another option for data protection: The Amazon website can delete all voice patterns that have been echoed by its users so far. Disadvantage: The learned speech recognition deteriorates again.
Personality: On several occasions, experts have tried to create a personality profile of the digital lady based on the voice of US Alexa. The results from the standardized Myers-Briggs test should please Amazon: Alexa is therefore sensitive, communicative, careful, helpful and hardworking. And she likes the English actor and “Sherlock” actor Benedict Cumberbatch!
Sources: All requests to Alexa are processed on the Amazon servers, which convert the sounds into text and then deliver results from a variety of sources. The central element for answering the questions is the legendary “knowledge machine” Wolfram Alpha by British scientist Stephen Wolfram. In contrast to Google, it does not provide a list of results that would not be suitable for speech output – just a single, concrete and (mostly) correct answer.
Star Trek: Explained role model of Alexa developers was the on-board computer of spaceship Enterprise. Hardware boss David Limp explains why: “No matter where you were on the Enterprise, you could just hit a button or talk to the bridge, and the computer answered all the questions – no matter what it was, Alexa should do the same It will take years until we are as far away as the Enterprise, but that’s the goal. ” And then we can all feel like Captain Kirk, Spock and Pill.
skills: That’s the name of the extensions for Alexa, which can be compared with apps. According to Voicebot.ai, which specializes in voice control, there are now more than 50,000 skills in the US. In Germany, it should be around 5,200. An Alexa skill can be used on any device with Amazon’s voice control, not just on the echo. With the developer tool Alexa Skills Kit skills can be relatively easily programmed. The German skills, from the lottery numbers and the pizza service over radio North Sea wave to the cat simulator for lonely animal lovers, can be found on the Amazon website. They can be activated via Alexa app. That the majority of the skills is not quite as successful as hoped for by Amazon, shows another investigation by Voicebot.ai: 61 percent of the skills in the Amazon Store have zero ratings, and only one percent comes to more than 100 reviews.
Toni Reid: Alexa’s father is – a mother. Toni Reid is Vice President of Amazon’s Echo division and is considered the driving force behind Alexa’s advancement. Her dream: “I want a world in which voice control is completely normal and where people are no longer constantly staring at screens.” Her greatest success: In 15 percent of Americans “Alexa” already “lives” at home. Her bizarre experience during the Alexa development: While renovating her house, she hid an echo prototype in a drawer – which suddenly began to babble. Goodbye secrecy! The Amazon veteran (though only 45) has worked in many areas of the company from human resources to online advertising – “and every time I get a new job at Amazon, it feels like a startup.” Meanwhile Toni Reid enjoys having three daughters: Maelle, Isabelle – and Alexa.
updates: From October 11, Amazon sells the latest generation of echoes in Germany. The most important novelty is the smart speaker Echo Plus for 150 euros, with which music should now sound better. The Echo Show with an enlarged 10-inch screen for 230 euros can listen to its owners with now eight microphones even more accurate. The little Echo Dot (60 Euro) sounds, despite 70 percent more volume than its predecessor, still not very good – but is big enough to receive and execute Alexa commands. For music fans, the Echo Sub, which costs 130 euros, is a subwoofer that produces a 2.1 music system with two networked echoes.
Video: Alexa can even rap – at least in the music video of the London hip-hop Too Many T’s, which is now reaching almost one million views on YouTube. There is also an interactive version that the user can influence and that only runs on Alexa devices. “We spent weeks building it so we could perform the song live,” the Too Many T’s reveal about the first piece of artificial intelligence on the lead vocals.
Switch: So far Alexa speaks only English, German, French and Japanese. But for English-speaking users, there are several options. Because they can choose between British English and American English. If the US slang gets on your nerves, you can switch to the much more distinguished “British English” via the Alexa app. The problem with it: This also changes the speech recognition. And the “British Alexa” has her problems with US users – and vice versa.
Future: She looks great for Alexa, Siri, Cortana and her colleagues. Ovum’s market researchers expect that in 2021 there will be over 7.5 billion voice assistants – about one device for every human being on Earth. The Google Assistant is therefore to dominate with a market share of 23.3 percent, ahead of Samsung Bixby (14.5 percent), ahead of Apple’s Siri (13.1 percent), Alexa (3.9 percent) and Microsoft’s Cortana (2.3 percent ). That Amazon’s assistant falls so far behind the so far in terms of artificial intelligence far inferior Bixby and Siri, but is considered a steep thesis.
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