Amazon Alexa is about to become smarter with several new improvements, like making it easier to find the right skill and knowing the context of a conversation better, the company announced.
First of all, users will soon be able to automatically discover, enable and launch third-party skills with natural phrases and requests.
In the past, when Alexa users want to add a new skill to the assistant, they are required to find the right skill among thousands of them, to enable it on the Alexa app, and then to launch the skill with the assistant.
Now the process is more streamlined. Simply say, for example, “Alexa, how do I remove an oil stain from my shirt?” The assistant will reply, “Here is Tide Stain Remover,” then walk the user through the process of removing an oil stain.
According to Amazon, there are more than 40,000 third-party skills on the Alexa platform.
Carrying Contexts to the Next Question
Voice commands used to ask users to say the right terms in order to activate the function. However, those words don’t sound natural enough as we talk in daily lives.
Originally, users would need to say “Alexa, what was Adele’s first album?” then “Alexa, play it.”
With the new context carryover feature, Alexa will understand multi-turn utterances. For instance, after users ask “Alexa, how is the weather in Seattle?” then they can keep asking “What about this weekend?” and the assistant understands that it’s about the weekend weather in Seattle.
Another example gives contexts across categories. “Alexa, how’s the weather in Portland?” and the next question can be “How long does it take to get there?”
Alexa Remember Things for Users
Alexa can also start to remember information for users, in case they forget.
For example, a user can ask “Alexa, remember that Sean’s birthday is June 20th.” The voice assistant will then reply that she has put the information into her memory, and users can recall the information later in a natural way.
“We have many challenges still to address, such as how to scale these new experiences across languages and different devices, how to scale skill arbitration across the thens of thousands of Alexa skills, and how to measure experience quality,” wrote Ruhi Sarikaya, the director of applied science of Alexa Machine Learning at Amazon, in a statement.
“We’re on a multi-year journey to fundamentally change human-computer interaction, and as we like to say at Amazon, it’s still Day 1.”
Alexa’s context carryover feature will be launched in the U.S., UK and Germany. The other two new features will only first be available in the U.S.