Wednesday June 26, 2019
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Alexa to Soon Plan Your Family Night, Including Dinner, Movie, and a Ride

An Alexa customer planning a family movie night out must interact independently with multiple skills to find a list of local theatres

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Lawsuit, Amazon, Alexa
The woman has alleged the e-commerce giant for illegally recording children. Flickr

Amazon’s personal assistant Alexa will soon be able to execute a complete family night out experience where it may book the movie (and let you watch a trailer too), make a restaurant reservation and pre-book an Uber to take all of you there — all seamlessly and in a jiffy.

At its flagship “re:Mars” event here, the company showed a brief demo and announced that in the coming months, this and other multi-skill experiences will roll out to Alexa customers, initially in the US.

“We envision a world where customers will converse more naturally with Alexa: seamlessly transitioning between skills, asking questions, making choices, and speaking the same way they would with a friend, family member or co-worker,” Rohit Prasad, Company’s Vice President and Head Scientist, told a packed house.

“Our objective is to shift the cognitive burden from the customer to Alexa,” Prasad added.

Alexa, Family Night, Dinner, Movie
Amazon’s personal assistant Alexa will soon be able to execute a complete family night out experience. Pixabay

Today, customer exchanges with Alexa are generally either one-shot requests, like “Alexa, what’s the weather?”, or interactions that require multiple requests to complete more complex tasks.

An Alexa customer planning a family movie night out must interact independently with multiple skills to find a list of local theatres playing a particular movie, identify a restaurant near one of them, and then purchase movie tickets, book a table, and perhaps order a ride.

The cognitive burden of carrying information across skills — such as time, number of people, and location — rests with the customer.

Enabling a new experience is a set of AI modules that work together to generate responses to customers’ questions and requests.

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The new approach to multi-turn dialogue also includes a separate AI module whose task is to decide when to switch between different skills — which questions to pass to the restaurant search skill, for instance, and which to pass to the movie skill,” informed Prasad.

“With this new approach, Alexa will predict a customer’s latent goal from the direction of the dialogue and proactively enable the conversation flow across topics and skills. This is a big leap for conversational AI,” informed Prasad.

He also announced the developer preview of “Alexa Conversations”, a new deep learning-based approach for skill developers to create more-natural voice experiences with less effort, fewer lines of code and less training data than before.

Alexa, Family Night, Dinner, Movie
Enabling a new experience is a set of AI modules that work together to generate responses to customers’ questions and requests. Pixabay

The preview allows skill developers to create natural, flexible dialogues within a single skill; upcoming releases will allow developers to incorporate multiple skills into a single conversation.

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“It’s way easier to build a complex voice experience with Alexa Conversations due to its underlying deep-learning-based dialog modeling,” Prasad noted. (IANS)

Next Story

Amazon is Being Sued for Recording Children’s Voices with Alexa

The complaint claims that children cannot consent to be recorded

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Lawsuit, Amazon, Alexa
The woman has alleged the e-commerce giant for illegally recording children. Flickr

In yet another lawsuit, Amazon has been sued by a Massachusetts woman, who on behalf of her 10-year-old daughter and children from eight other states, is seeking class-action status to sue the e-commerce giant.

Filed in a Federal court in Seattle, the lawsuit alleges Amazon of saving ‘voice prints’ of millions of children by unlawfully recording their conversations around Alexa-enabled smart devices, Vox news reported on Friday.

The woman has alleged the e-commerce giant for illegally recording children and adding them to “a massive database of billions of voice recordings containing the private details of millions of Americans”.

The complaint claims that children cannot consent to be recorded and do not comprehend the “potentially invasive uses of big data by a company the size of Amazon” and that they “use Alexa without any understanding or warning that Amazon is recording and voice-printing them”, the report said.

Lawsuit, Amazon, Alexa
The lawsuit alleges Amazon of saving ‘voice prints’ of millions of children by unlawfully recording their conversations around Alexa-enabled smart devices. Pixabay

The complainant says she bought an Alexa Echo Dot device in 2018 and was not given reason to believe that her child would be recorded.

“Customers set up their Echo devices and we give them easy-to-use tools to manage them, including the ability to review and delete the voice recordings associated with their account,” the report quoted an Amazon spokesperson as saying.

The spokesperson also highlighted a company blog-post that discusses ‘Amazon FreeTime’ — a dedicated service launched in 2012 to help parents manage the ways their kids interact with technology, including limiting screen time.

However, this is not the first time that the e-commerce giant was accused of violating kids’ privacy with Alexa.

Earlier in May, US Senators and a group of 19 consumer and public health advocates accused Amazon for recording and saving conversations that take place around its smart speakers, urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate into the case.

Fighting privacy concerns and data collection suspicions, later in May, Amazon added support for new voice commands to let users ask Alexa to delete previous voice recordings.

To ensure security and privacy of users, the company is also launching ‘Alexa Privacy Hub’ which is supposed to offer an easy way to learn how Alexa works and find privacy controls.