If an Echo user tells their device, “Alexa, announce that dinner is ready,” Alexa will do just that: relaying the phrase, “Dinner is ready,” through all Echo speakers in a user’s home. The feature, which Amazon has started offering to customers in the U.S. and Canada, joins other functions, such as Alexa Calling, Messaging and Drop In.
The innovation comes as Amazon is reportedly working on its own artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled chip to interface with Alexa, according to a report by technology news source Engadget. The chip would work on all Alexa-powered devices, including the company’s Echo line of smart speakers.
Embedding an AI chip into the devices would enable Alexa to respond more quickly because her speech recognition would be located in the device rather than having to contact the cloud to get information to a user. That middleman situation means there’s currently a delay in Alexa accessing the cloud to interpret users’ voice commands. The virtual assistant would still need to access the cloud for complex requests, even with the AI chip added to Amazon devices’ functionalities, but Echo devices with the embedded chip would be able to answer basic questions — such as the current time — without that delay.
And, in news reported in this space earlier this year, Alexa is making inroads into numerous areas of the home and beyond. Between 2017 and the beginning of 2018, the number of Alexa skills skyrocketed from 7,053 to more than 25,000 in the U.S. That tally has increased by more than 100 percent in the U.K. Additionally, in December, the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) estimated that Amazon and Alexa awareness jumped to 89 percent over the previous nine months, from 77 percent.