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Monday, May 02, 2016

My Take on a Year with Amazon Echo

Is Amazon Alexa good at understanding your needs vocally?   Is it a good assistant?  For very narrrow but also useful domains, Yes.  For general understanding that contains common sense or multi stage knowledge question and answering or updating memory.  Or even getting to know your particular needs.   No.  The typical interaction beyond a simple query makes you adapt to Alexa more than she adapts to you. Non-understanding too frequently occurs due to poor voice to text translation.

Most useful for needs that are augmented, in perception or reality, by being hands-free.

Is it good as a hub for making the home smarter?  Links to a wide variety of devices and capabilities. Many of these are demonstration grade applications.  This needs more work to really address the needs involved.

As a hub for the intelligent App development?   It contains over 500 such 'skills' today  and these are constantly being added to.  The vast majority of these applications are today 'lookup' style applications that have only narrowly focused or entertainment uses.

Extensibility?   Scalable?   AI?  Since the work occurs remotely it would seem that anything that we can ultimately do that approaches AI can be done this way.

Design?  Operates reliably well in typical consumer environment, containing high speed Wifi,   Pushing all intelligent evolution to a remote server would seem to open it to considerable improvement.   Not an open or standardized environment, so leads to first participant bias.  More quality control needs to be done on skills.

Concerns? The system is designed to be Attentive. It always listens to sound and answers commands. This has led to security objections, which Amazon has reasonably answered.   Could also answer to other sensor interactions.

So a success? .. bottom line.  ...  Yes.  With some reservation regards expectations today.    This is not AI, nor is it a very flexible or adept virtual assistant.   It could be the starting point for considerable value. Not unlike questioning the value of the Web for the consumer in 1993.   Worth its price.

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