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Tech & Science How Amazon's Alexa came to dominate the smart speaker market

05:55  08 november  2019
05:55  08 november  2019 Source:   qz.com

Amazon is crowd-sourcing Alexa answers

Amazon is crowd-sourcing Alexa answers Amazon has extended participation in its Alexa Answers program to the general public (starting with the US), by taking it out of beta. It allows people from the general public to answer the questions that have stumped the e-tail titan's personal assistant in order to improve its overall performance. Alexa Answers is a program that's open to all users, via its various Alexa-enabled devices, and seeks to provide answers to questions that have as-of-yet remained unanswered.

For Amazon , perfecting Alexa ’ s voice recognition is necessary as people begin to use it for an ever increasing number of tasks. Currently, a quarter of the US adult population owns a smart speaker , according to a March report by Voicebot.ai and Voicify. Alexa appears to dominate the US market

For Amazon , the smart speaker and smart home market is about creating another consumer touchpoint Recent data shows Google' s grip on the smart speaker market is slipping. Google was the only To give you a feel for just how out of left field Baidu has come -- the company grew smart

Prompts on how to use Amazon's Alexa personal assistant are seen alongside an Amazon Echo in an Amazon ‘experience center’  in Vallejo, California, U.S., May 8, 2018. Picture taken on May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage © Thomson Reuters Prompts on how to use Amazon's Alexa personal assistant are seen alongside an Amazon Echo in an Amazon ‘experience center’ in Vallejo, California, U.S., May 8, 2018. Picture taken on May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

When Amazon debuted the Amazon Echo in 2014, there were decidedly mixed reactions to the black, cylindrical Bluetooth speaker that could pick up voice commands. Few understood why the e-commerce giant had suddenly released a $199 speaker that could talk to you.

Today we know that the Echo and other devices Amazon has since released are mere vessels for the real star of the show: Alexa. The voice assistant is available in 15 languages and 80 countries and boasts more than 100,000 “skills,” compared to about a dozen five years ago. It can wake up your cat, serve as an interpreter, deter a burglar, help you work out, and streamline your workflow.

Amazon is simplifying device setup with ‘Certified for Humans’ program

  Amazon is simplifying device setup with ‘Certified for Humans’ program Including requirements around setup processes and functionalityAmazon says that any device that carries this new certification will be designed to cut down the number of steps required to get them connected to Alexa. A developer page for the program lists further requirements for devices, which range from technical requirements like supporting automatic firmware updates, to another which says that certified devices must have a “high average customer review rating on Amazon.” In total, the company says that certified devices have to meet over a dozen requirements to get certified.

When most people think " smart home" their mind immediately goes to Amazon ' s family of Alexa devices. In this video from our YouTube channel, we break down exactly how dominant Amazon is in the smart speaker market and highlight the Chinese upstart that is trying to eat away at its market

Amazon Echo’ s dominance in the smart - speaker market is a lesson on the virtue of being first. Michael Dobbs, a vice president at 360i, believes one reason Amazon continues to dominate smart - speaker sales despite Alexa ’ s relatively poor technical performance is because of the.

The company said in January that more than 100 million Alexa-enabed devices had been sold, among them 150-plus products Amazon itself offers and some 85,000 third-party products ranging from TVs to microwaves to washing machines.

In the early days of Alexa, the voice assistant was prone to errors. Some critics argue this still hasn’t changed. The United Nations found that voice assistants like Alexa (and Apple’s Siri) were prone to gender bias. One young Dallas girl accidentally ordered a bunch of dollhouses. Similar “Alexa” fails began cropping up on social media. A scene in the Jordan Peele horror movie Us, in which an Alexa-like voice assistant mistakes a dying character’s plea to call the police as a request to play music from the band the Police, further immortalized the ineptitude of the nascent technology. 

Amazon dips its toes in the smart glasses industry

  Amazon dips its toes in the smart glasses industry Following in the footsteps of Google, Snap Inc., and North, Amazon announced on Wednesday the launch of an Alexa-equipped set of smart glasses: The Echo Frames. Among the slew of Echo product reveals and updates announced at Amazon's hardware event in Seattle Wednesday, the company introduced the world to its first set of intelligent glasses launching with a surprisingly wallet-friendly price tag of $180.The Echo Frames were designed for all-day use; they're lightweight and can be fitted with prescription lenses like North's Focals.

Amazon ’ s voice-oriented " Alexa everywhere" strategy is paying off. The company’s AI-powered voice assistant, Alexa , runs on 68% of the smart speakers But first-party manufacturers’ dominance over the smart speaker market may be short-lived. Although Amazon , Google, and Chinese tech giant

Amazon ' s Echo speakers continue to be the most popular smart speakers in the United States, and will remain in the dominant spot through at least 2021, according to By offering affordable devices and building out the number of Alexa skills, the company has maintained Echo's appeal," she added.

But Amazon claims that Alexa has improved and is on its way to becoming better. 

This week Rohit Prashod, the head scientist for Alexa’s artificial intelligence, identified four areas of future growth: wake word detection, or how quickly the system wakes up following a voice prompt; automatic speech recognition (ASR), or how quickly it can convert audio streamed into words; natural language understanding (NLR), or how quickly it can extract meaning from language; and text-to-speech synthesis.

Related slideshow: 25 facts you may not know about Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (Provided by Photo Services)

According to Prashod, efforts by the AI team to improve Alexa’s voice recognition have paid off, and error rates have declined:

In both wake word and ASR, we’ve seen fourfold reductions in recognition errors. In NLU, the error reduction has been threefold—even though the range of utterances that NLU processes, and the range of actions Alexa can take, have both increased dramatically. And in listener studies…we’ve seen an 80% reduction in the naturalness gap between Alexa’s speech and human speech. -- 

Rohit Prashod

For Amazon, perfecting Alexa’s voice recognition is necessary as people begin to use it for an ever increasing number of tasks. Currently, a quarter of the US adult population owns a smart speaker, according to a March report by Voicebot.ai and Voicify. Alexa appears to dominate the US market, beating out Google Home, at least for now. (Globally, Google Home beats Alexa, with about 32% market share.)

Amazon and third-party developers have managed to come up with an Alexa-enabled answer to nearly every aspect of the average person’s lifestyle. That makes the numerous privacy concerns over the technology all the more concerning. The scientific arm of Germany’s parliament released a report this summer concluding there’s evidence Alexa is listening when it shouldn’t be. Amazon faced backlash after Bloomberg reported that it had hired thousands of human reviewers to listen to Alexa recordings in order to perfect its voice-recognition technology.

None of this seems to be slowing Amazon down. At its hardware event in September, the company announced a bevy of new and upcoming Alexa-enabled products, including smart glasses, earbuds, an alarm clock, and a “smart ring” (the Echo Loop) that will let you call on Alexa whenever and wherever you desire. And just in time for the holidays, Amazon today released an Alexa-enabled Christmas tree that’s already sold out.

Given that few saw such products coming five years ago, it’s fair to say we won’t know what to expect with Alexa five years from now.

Lamborghini adds Amazon Alexa to Huracan Evo .
New integration allows drivers to use voice commands to adjust in-car and home-based objects such as heated seats and entry gatesThe Alexa-integrated supercar, which will be demonstrated at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, will allow drivers to adjust climate, interior lighting and seat heating with voice commands.

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