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Amazon Alexa To Get Voice Makeover, New Natural Conversations

Amazon’s Alexa is set to get a voice makeover with a move to a more natural conversation capability.

In the future it could start off by trying to guess what one might say next, for example So if asked how long it took to make a cappuccino, it may answer and then ask if the user wants turn on the coffee machine.

The AI-powered chat service is streamed into millions of homes including via a new generation of Echo speakers that were launched last month.

Some people may find its new-found skill annoying, according to one expert.

Alexa software engineers Anjishnu Kumar and Anand Rathi blogged: “With a new machine learning system, Alexa can infer that an initial question implies a subsequent request.”

But this required “a number of sophisticated algorithms to detect latent goals, formulate them into actions that frequently span different skills and surface to customers in a way doesn’t feel disruptive”.

Gadget website Pocket-lint founder Stuart Miles said if it worked well, it would be a great time-saver.

But that would depend on how much Alexa understood about the context of a question.

“If you ask it what the capital of Mongolia is in the context of geography homework and its next question is, ‘Do you want to book tickets online?’, then that is going to be annoying.

“And you are just going to turn it off.”

‘Spam’ assistant
Some users apparently given the feature early have already posted complaints to Reddit.

“It’s just a constant barrage of asking me if I want to use some other feature that I do not want to use,” wrote one user, likening the facility to “spam”.

Mr Miles said intelligent conversation needed to work both ways.

“One of most asked questions of Alexa is ‘Turn on the lights’, even by people who don’t have smart lights connected to Alexa,” he said.

“They think, ‘Alexa is clever, so why can’t it turn on my lights?’

“People expect these voice assistants to become more intelligent.

“But they still have to learn.”

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