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Alexa started asking questions. How should we respond?

11-Amazon Echo Studio

In the future, software in products such as Amazon Echo Studio will have the function of “let and listen” dialogue.

Sarah Tu/CNET

Two years ago, Amazon announced a new feature of Alexa: the ability to ask questions. Waist and legSince the announcement, their names have slowly been introduced, and it is now quite common to hear Alexa jump out of the old “answer questions and obey orders” convention. Voice assistants usually ask these questions as a response your Command or question, which is the result of Alexa trying to anticipate your request-for example, reminding you to lock the door at night.

Bending is only the beginning.

In July Alexa Live Developer Conference, Amazon announced another new upgrade: dialogue with the voice assistant. The tools used for this type of conversation have been implemented by third-party developers, and it is not surprising to hear that Alexa started asking follow-up questions after issuing regular commands in the next few months.

These seem to be incremental improvements, but they may drastically change the way we understand and use voice assistants. After all, in the movies we’ve seen, AI creators are justified by the creators, but in fact, very few of us spend time thinking about whether we really will miss you Spend a lot of time chatting and drinking coffee with Alexa every morning. And more importantly, we have not worked hard enough to cope with the cost of these advancements.

The power of Alexa

Talking about today’s huge database of data companies like Amazon and Google can be said to be almost the same, but data is the fuel of the well-known engine that drives the smart home, and Alexa is the fracturing tool that collects it.

The Echo Dot with a clock released by Amazon last year provides a small window into the usefulness of this type of data: Alexa asks more than 1 billion times in a day every year, so Amazon has created a way to answer this question more effectively device of. This is a simple supply and demand relationship, but Amazon can quantify demand with unprecedented precision.


The 2019 Echo Dot with a clock represents the data collection tool Amazon is using.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Now, Amazon is testing Alexa’s more aggressive behavior, occasionally prompting the assistant to prompt the user-the company can track the success rate of these predictions in real time. Daniel Rausch, vice president of Amazon’s smart home division, said that most of the time people responded positively (that is, affirmed the measures Alexa suggested to take).

I spoke on the phone with Rausch and I before the meeting in July, and he was as excited about the innovation in the voice-driven smart home field. He said that more developers than ever are designing Alexa skills and devices to work with voice assistants — more than 750,000 people registered for the conference, and it’s cheaper than ever to integrate Alexa-compatible features In any given device, the price is as low as $4.

The growth of third-party development means that the instant feedback loop (where Amazon can launch features, test it and receive instant customer response data) is only growing in value to Amazon-especially as they go further into uncharted territory.

Echo car product photo 7

Thanks to the Alexa app, Echo Auto and other outdoor devices, Amazon’s voice assistant makes you feel more at home than at home.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Maybe, just like the time we spend on mobile phones every day, we will develop a new specification without having to spend time seriously considering the route we take, the destination ahead. Maybe now is the time to consider such things.

Future vision

The EU is currently investigating Google, Amazon and other tech giants It is this data-driven market advantage The smart home sector in Europe-although the stated goal is to maintain healthy competition.

Whether the other form of query is formal or informal, the order is: What are the unforeseen results of extended speech technology? Is there a way to make technological progress without risking such consequences?

Daniel Rausch and others at Amazon are usually reluctant to talk about specific goals in the future, but the technology giant’s investment in voice technology has brought more benefits than you think. This is a vision that is both exciting and interesting.

We are unlikely to reach the level of science fiction iron Man, Moon or her It’s too early, but as we become more accustomed to the “get-and-get” mode of interacting with Alexa, we are moving towards voice technology and becoming a more important part of our daily lives. As Rausch told me on the phone, Alexa usage has tripled in the past two years, but Alexa usage has grown nonlinearly: next year’s growth is likely to exceed the previous year’s growth.

When Alexa and other voice assistants find a house in a new device-control our TV set, Mobile phone even Microwave oven -As they become more predictive and active in interacting with us, we can see that the voice environment has undergone tremendous changes in shorter and shorter periods of time.

Amazon Basic Microwave-1

Amazon Basics microwave ovens may just be an early example of what will become normal in the next decade: voice-driven devices.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

More specifically: within a year, we can imagine that Alexa (and other voice assistants) hear you when you walk into the kitchen with an ability similar to Alex Guard (It can distinguish between human footsteps and pet footsteps), ask if you want to preheat the oven for your usual lunch, etc. All these will not prompt. Even considering the cost of privacy it represents, many customers may be satisfied with this convenience.

It’s not just privacy that is threatened: people are turning to voice assistants for information about COVID-19, mental health, exercise, etc.-Alexa dutifully provides skills (sometimes hundreds of skills) to meet such needs . As an Atlantic writer said when he was full of contemplation about the future of voice assistants: “With their perfect cloud-based memory, they will know everything; occupy our most intimate space, they will be everywhere. With their incredible They can gain extraordinary power in our emotional life.”

As Alexa changes, so do we. Many of us who regularly use voice assistants have discovered techniques for interacting with them. For example, when I asked for Teyana Taylor’s album KTSE, Alexa didn’t understand it at all, so I had to play one of the songs and then told my assistant to “play the whole album”. My wife is convinced that Alexa is a sexist because she never understands her commands and the assistant also understands my wife (“I have more practice,” I always assure her, only mostly myself), She is more willing to insult Alexa-and, apologize strangely.

I am worried about how our three- and four-year-old children will interact with the voice assistant. To be honest, I don’t know which kind of interaction is correct.

In short, Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri and many other assistants are changing privacy norms, changing culture and changing us.

Echo display 8-2

Cameras connected to Alexa and other voice assistants only make the conversation more complicated.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Can we protect our privacy-and ourselves-can still experience the convenience of these advancements? If we try to do this, we will definitely slow down-a company like Amazon may be eager to avoid it.

The privacy policy can be confusing and it is important here. Like a bill California’s CCPA (The implementation has just started as of July) can help companies violate user privacy or fail to correctly inform users about the data collected on it. With the rapid development of voice and smart home technology, such bills need to become living documents, formulated with Alexa and other voice assistants, and challenged them where appropriate.

From a personal point of view, it is still worth practicing privacy hygiene-if you don’t use the app often, delete the app from your phone and choose the strictest privacy option from social media, voice assistants, etc. Fundamentally, now is the best time to start asking yourself miss you The face of the future, and the voice assistant’s access to our lives, houses, and ourselves.

Echoes of the past

If the time travellers of the future told us in 2007, Sleep problems with Behavior change Touch screens will enter our lives. Should it change the trajectory of our mobile phone innovation in the 13 years before 2020?

If the answer is yes, then there is another question worth asking: When we see Amazon actively moving towards the future of centralizing its voice assistants in the home, should we do more to protect the remaining privacy?

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