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Friday, May 05, 2023

Alexa in Trouble? Will AI Help? Google Pushes Bard

Is there room for an AI save?  And Google Assistant goes to Bard.

As Alexa flounders, Amazon hopes homegrown generative AI can find it revenue

With voice assistants on the brink of death, Amazon targets Alexa large language model.

Scharon Harding - 5/4/2023, 6:22 PM   in ArsTechnica

While voice assistants initially seemed to be a convenient, futuristic way to get information and perform basic tasks, they have barely graduated from that role. And the lack of evolution has left voice assistants surrounded by uncertainty. Google, for example, has shut down third-party Google Assistant smart displays and reportedly shifted Assistant manpower to Bard. But while Google Assistant and Google's experimental Bard chatbot currently feel like different products with different uses, Amazon has dreams of uniting its generative AI efforts with its struggling Alexa business.

It's no secret that belts are tightening at Amazon, compounding interest in making Alexa a strong revenue source. Alexa was reportedly set to lose $10 billion in 2022, per an Insider report, and had failed to sufficiently engage users in ways that make Amazon money. Amazon is also enduring its largest round of layoffs and last week announced it is discontinuing Halo fitness and sleep trackers.

Can generative AI generate Alexa revenue?

Amazon reportedly tried incorporating more AI into Halo before killing it—like having trackers leverage a smartphone camera and computer vision to analyze and share user workout data with Amazon. We weren't eager to trust Amazon with such AI usage; however, Amazon is reportedly shifting some of that invasive AI energy to Alexa.

A report from Insider on Tuesday cited a "leaked document" titled "Alexa LLM [large language model] Entertainment Use Cases." It reportedly details plans to make Alexa more capable of "thinking vs. fetching from a database."

The AI, an Amazon spokesperson told Insider, isn't based on an open source model like versions being developed by other Big Tech companies but, rather, a proprietary LLM called Alexa Teacher Model. Alexa has already been using it for years, but Amazon is "building new models that are much larger and much more generalized and capable" to make Alexa "more proactive and conversational," according to Amazon's rep. ... 

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