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Amazon plans to rework Alexa in the age of ChatGPT

Amazon plans to rework Alexa in the age of ChatGPT


Amazon’s plan to make more money from Alexa could lean into more generalized large language models like the ones behind ChatGPT and Bard.

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An Echo Dot with Clock on a kitchen counter
Going beyond “What’s the weather like?”
Photo by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge

Amazon is looking to add new AI chatbot technology to Alexa, reports Insider based on leaked documents. The voice assistant needs reanimation in a world now seemingly infatuated with generative AI like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard.

One example in the document describes Alexa generating a bedtime story after an eight-year-old asks it to tell a story about a “cat and a moon.” And in true ChatGPT-style, it makes up a whole story about “Mittens, the first cat to ever go to the moon.” It also describes the use of an Echo Show camera that sees the child holding an Olaf toy, so it incorporates the character into the story.

Disney is just one of several partnership opportunities that Amazon is imagining alongside Lego and others.

Amazon is relying on its own internally developed large language model (LLM) that will power a newer and more capable Alexa. That’s in contrast with Microsoft’s Bing, which uses OpenAI’s model. Amazon calls its LLM Alexa Teacher Model, but a company spokesperson tells Insider that it’s building larger “more generalized and capable” ones that’ll make Alexa “more proactive and conversational” while noting that Alexa has apparently been using the Teacher model for several years.

Based on the leaked documents, Amazon envisions Alexa seeming like an entity that thinks instead of “fetching from a database.” One notable section titled “Alexa LLM Entertainment Use Cases” paints a picture of how the new AI system will particularly make media recommendations, news delivery, and storytelling more conversational.

Another example shown is if a user asks, “Alexa, find that HBO or Netflix show where rich people go on vacation to Sicily or Hawaii.” Alexa figures out that it’s The White Lotus, and then the user asks what the cast is, which Alexa then obliges. And on FireTV, it shows that HBO has a free trial, and then the user asks Alexa how much HBO is after the trial, and Alexa then tells the rate and even asks if the user wants to subscribe (through Amazon’s Prime Video Channels).

Plans to reinvigorate Alexa come after the company’s waves of massive layoffs that began months ago, reportedly affecting nearly 2,000 people from the division working on projects including the Alexa voice assistant and Amazon’s hardware.