Technology Why Amazon's new Alexa conversation feature is so hard to pull off
9 things your Amazon Echo can do that Google Home can't
Amazon's Alexa can send text messages, guard your house, whisper back and many more things Google's voice assistant can't.Only Amazon Echo can guard your house and alert you if it hears something suspicious while you're gone. It also lets you know when your packages are out for delivery. Google Home still can't track your packages and can't tell you if it thinks someone is breaking into your house, although it can translate other languages in real-time.
Even with years of practice, it can be tricky for humans to understand the back-and-forth and nuances of conversations — we interrupt each other, misunderstand things, and sometimes have to repeat ourselves to get a message across. Now imagine how difficult it may be for artificial intelligence, which at its best is far less capable than any of us, to figure all that out and weigh in at the right time, too.
That's what Amazon is trying to do with a new feature for its Alexa virtual assistant that it introduced on Thursday, alongside a bevy of products and features during an. Slated for release next year, it will allow an Alexa user to say "Alexa, join the conversation," and the assistant will be able to weigh in throughout a multi-person discussion. It's very different from how we typically interact with Alexa via individual voice applications, which Amazon calls "skills," on smart speakers and other devices that use the virtual helper.
6 Alexa features you should turn off right now
From protecting privacy to making Alexa more efficient, here are some ways to improve your Amazon voice assistant.Just important as finding those favorite features is finding the switches to turn off. Whether you're concerned about privacy , don't want friends "dropping in" uninvited or just want Alexa to stop parroting your questions and commands back to you, here are six features you should disable in the Alexa app right now.
Amazon demonstrated how it will look in a video shared Thursday during its event, as two women coordinated a pizza order with Alexa, which was embodied in an Amazon Echo Show gadget on a kitchen island. Both women interacted with the assistant, at times talking over it, and at others addressing it directly, such as by saying, "That one!" when Alexa got to the preferred pizza topping combination, and when asking for a movie recommendation after deciding on a pizza. Though they asked questions that could have been addressed to each other — such as, "Do you think a medium is going to be enough?" and "Is it a good movie?" — Alexa appeared to properly sort out which questions were meant for the humans versus those intended for the AI system.
10 new Alexa features to try on your Amazon Echo
Amazon added several new tricks and tools to its Echo devices and Alexa app.Last month, the big tech company also announced three new Alexa updates designed to help you to better interact with Alexa. Here are the latest features that you can use on your Amazon Echo now.
This kind of human-like interaction between Alexa and actual humans isn't easy to perfect, and Amazon has been working on it for a while. In July, Amazon showed off an early version of, which is meant to help Alexa skills developers create more human-like dialogue. This came more than a year after Amazon combining several requests — movie tickets, a restaurant reservation, and a ride — into a single conversation between Alexa and one human (this particular capability ).
The sort of turn-taking Amazon demonstrated Thursday, which can be used for conversations between multiple people, marks the next step toward Alexa becoming a capable conversation partner.
Rohit Prasad, vice president and head scientist for Alexa AI, told CNN Business that enabling Alexa to participate in natural-sounding turn-taking requires a number of steps and signals. First, Alexa has to detect speech; then, it has to figure out what it is that a person is saying and whether that utterance was actually directed at Alexa — something that's more difficult than a typical Alexa interaction, because in this case you are only addressing Alexa directly when you invite it into the conversation. Alexa also must keep track of the history of a conversation in order to know what to suggest.
5 best ways to use Amazon Echo in the kitchen
Alexa can help with more than just setting multiple timers.Here's one I use in my own home almost every day: Alexa-powered kitchen timers. Just tell her to set one for however long you need, and Alexa will start the silent countdown. It's a handy, hands-free way to manage the clock while you're cooking.
If Alexa is running on a device with a camera, like one of Amazon's Echo Show gadgets, and Alexa has permission to access that camera, it will harness that as an additional cue: The camera can be used to estimate the pose of a person near it, in order to determine whether that person is speaking to Alexa or someone else in the room, Prasad said.
In the future, Prasad said, Alexa will be able to interrupt you, too. This might be helpful if, say, a conversation about which pizza to get or movie to watch turns into an argument.
"But it has to be really right in interrupting, otherwise you'll get annoyed at her," he said.
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