Alexa Now Guesses What You Need Before You Ask for It

A photo of the Amazon Echo smart speaker.
Amazon

Talking to a smart assistant feels unnatural, especially when simple tasks require multiple commands. But a new Alexa update allows the smart assistant to “infer” what skills you need to use based on the context of your requests. Amazon says the new feature should make Alexa feel more conversational and reduce the time it takes to use skills.

The new feature sounds a bit confusing, but it’s actually quite simple. Alexa listens to your questions, answers them, and asks if you need to use a skill related to your question. After asking how long a cup of tea should brew, for example, Alexa might say “five minutes” before asking “would you like me to set a timer for five minutes?”

In Amazon’s words, Alexa can now “infer customers’ latent goals—goals that are implicit in customer requests but not directly expressed.” The feature should make Alexa less frustrating to use, although it could become annoying if Alexa misinterprets your “latent goals.”

In fact, Amazon says that early models of the updated Alexa would follow-up requests for “chicken recipes” with “do you want me to play chicken sounds?” Alexa may be smarter than ever, but the engineers at Amazon have to put in a lot of work to keep the smart assistant from being annoying.

The new Alexa capability is available to English-language Alexa users in the US. It should roll out for other languages and other regions soon.

Source: Amazon via ZDNet

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