Virtual assistant

Does Alexa turn into a HAL? Amazon says its virtual assistant is becoming more “proactive”

Does Alexa turn into a HAL? Amazon says its virtual assistant is becoming more “proactive” and will soon take action even before being asked

  • Alexa boss says smart assistant could soon take action without being asked
  • This may include turning on lights or the television when you enter a room
  • The ultimate goal is to make Alexa “more conversational, less transactional”

Amazon is working to improve the sophistication of its virtual assistant Alexa so it can make decisions on its own, the company has revealed.

The US tech giant says the tech will learn its owner’s habits and perform tasks – like turning off the lights or turning on the TV – without even being asked.

Some of the company’s new Echo speakers, which have Alexa built-in, include an ultrasonic motion-sensing feature to automatically detect when someone enters the room.

The company also recently unveiled an Alexa-powered home robot called Astro, which was designed to be a safety device as well as help with caregiving.

The proposals evoke echoes of HAL 9000, the sentient artificial intelligence that featured in the sci-fi novel and film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

HAL was initially a benign source of information and guardian of the Discovery One spacecraft’s systems, but eventually became self-reliant, refusing commands and threatening the crew.

Mr Limp said Alexa would become “more conversational, less transactional” and grow to be useful in “more places in your life” in the years to come.

In the film, HAL 9000 is the artificial intelligence that controls the nuclear-powered Discovery One spacecraft.

In the film, HAL 9000 is the artificial intelligence that controls the nuclear-powered Discovery One spacecraft.

Alexa, tell me when my laundry is done! Amazon’s smart assistant can now listen for running water or devices that beep

Alexa, Amazon’s digital assistant, can now listen for running water and beeping household appliances in the United States, the company has revealed.

The tech giant has added the two “sound detectors” to Alexa Routines – sequences of Alexa-related tasks that users can program as a shortcut.

This means that Alexa can recognize individual sounds and send a notification to the user through their device so they can attend.

If users want Alexa to detect a dryer’s ping when it completes a spin, for example, they can set up a routine for Alexa to send an alert.

First launched in the UK in 2016, Alexa has become compatible with a wide range of connected devices around the home, including TVs, kitchen appliances, heating, lighting and home security systems. , as well as a voice command tool for smartphones and in cars.

Dave Limp, senior vice president of devices and services at Amazon – and thus the man in charge of Alexa – said a key goal for Amazon was to free up people’s time by asking the smart assistant to perform more “mundane tasks”.

Mr Limp told the PA news agency that Alexa had evolved over time from a basic assistant capable of answering “transactional” questions about the time or the weather to a more substantial smart home assistant and now often proactive.

He is keen to promote the idea of ​​”ambient intelligence”, where the assistant is not only able to help with a task, but also knows when to intervene.

“Alexa has been – when it first came out and even until a few years ago – quite transactional,” he said.

‘You would say, “Alexa, what time is it?” and you would have an answer. You asked what the weather was like and you got an answer.

But he said Alexa is already starting to perform tasks without being asked, and there’s a lot more to come in the future.

“You don’t necessarily always want to be transactional, you’d like it to work on your behalf and be ambient smart,” he said.

Dave Limp, the senior vice president of devices and services at Amazon – and therefore the man in charge of Alexa

Dave Limp, the senior vice president of devices and services at Amazon – and therefore the man in charge of Alexa

“It goes beyond that because people are familiar in many ways and you can personalize the experience for them and do things on their behalf.

‘The furthest we’ve come is with the smart home realm where now more than one in four – over 25% – of the things Alexa does for the smart home is done without the customer saying a single thing word, it’s done in Context.

“So if you turn your lights off ten days in a row and then go on vacation and forget to turn your lights off, he’ll do that for you – he might ask you first, ‘I have a hunch’ , but after a while it will.

“So it’s those kind of proactive things that make it more enjoyable over time and smarter and when that starts to happen it also starts to feel more magical.”

“And that has the side effect of looking up and noticing the world around you rather than having your head stuck in your tablet or phone all the time.”

Mr Limp said Alexa will continue – like the HAL character – to become less transactional and more conversational over time.

“There are many other places where I think Alexa can be proactive on your behalf,” he said.

“And any time Alexa can automate what might be a mundane task for you, it’s just a better world we live in, because we have more time to research what that other thing is that might be more important on your list.”

Amazon’s new $1,500 Astro robot is considered a ‘disaster that’s not ready to come out’ by its designers

Designers of Amazon’s new home robot have called it “a disaster that’s not ready to come out,” with one even saying it will throw itself down the stairs “if the chance arises. present”.

The $1,450 (£1,115) Alexa-powered bot called Astro was unveiled by the company in September 2021 as a standalone device capable of monitoring a person’s home when they’re not there.

It can be controlled remotely to monitor pets, people and home security, and provide alerts in case of disturbances.

But it seems some of its designers are far from convinced that the bot will live up to Amazon’s billing.

One person who worked there called Astro “terrible”, while another dismissed Amazon’s promotional talk that it could help seniors as “absurd nonsense”. depending on motherboard.

Motherboard claimed to have seen leaked documents that suggest Astro’s facial recognition system is “very flawed”, meaning it may have trouble identifying whether a person is a foreigner or not.

“Person detection is unreliable at best, making the home security proposition laughable,” said a source who worked on the project.

They also said the robot was fragile and several devices were broken.

However, Amazon told MailOnline that the claims were ‘simply inaccurate’ and that Astro had undergone ‘rigorous quality and safety testing’.

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