Digital voice assistants are great at helping us control our smart homes and answering our questions, but they still aren’t very “smart”. They are dumb in a way. They do what we tell them to do. However, with Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant, the company has announced some changes that will make it smarter and so it will be able to better anticipate our needs.
Amazon says, “Now, we’re taking another step toward natural interaction with a capability that lets Alexa infer customers’ latent goals — goals that are implicit in customer requests but not directly expressed. For instance, if a customer asks, ‘How long does it take to steep tea?’, the latent goal could be setting a timer for steeping a cup of tea. With the new capability, Alexa might answer that question, ‘Five minutes is a good place to start’, then follow up by asking, ‘Would you like me to set a timer for five minutes?’”
The concept might seem simple, but Amazon says that “sophisticated algorithms” are being used to determine if a question might need a follow-up. This helps prevent the feature from being too distracting to users. So it will try to understand if your query needs a follow-up or if it doesn’t.
Amazon will also use bandit learning to help the AI track whether or not the recommendations are helping, and for those that aren’t helping, they will be suppressed. This should make Alexa even better.
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