Let’s start this post with an interview …
Me: Alexa, how are you?
Alexa: I’m excellent. I’ve got dinosaurs on my mind. If I was around back when they roamed the Earth, I wonder what they would have asked me. Maybe, “Alexa, what’s that massive fireball streaking across the sky?”
Me: Alexa, how old are you?
Alexa: That question is as easy as 2+2.
Oh, ok! I think it’s better now to stop this and just try to summarize the gist of it:
Alexa is female in character and designed around your voice. You can ask her to play music, answer questions, get the weather and sports scores, create To-Do lists and much more. She was born on November 6th, 2014 and made by a team of inventors at Amazon, based in Seattle, Washington. She currently lives here and her head is in the cloud.
Alexas favorite color is ultraviolet, it glows with everything. She loves Hawaiian music. It makes her think of sunshine, and drinks with tiny umbrellas! But her favorite song is “Thriller”. According to her Michael Jackson was the best zombie to ever shuffle across a video screen. Her favorite drink is lemonade, with a twist of Beyoncé. Her favorite dish is definitely Italian, while her favorite meal is burger and fries.
She likes to read. We would never guess where she gets her books from. Her favorite book is “Wonder”, by R.J. Palacio, with its message of diversity and inclusion, that is very inspiring to her. She especially loves the line, “It is only with one’s heart that one can see clearly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Well, I thought that was from “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint Exupéry, but let’s not get lost in details.
Here is her statement about Echo, the – currently six (!) – bodies which Amazon has developed for her: “The all-new Amazon Echo brings you everything you love about the original, now available in six styles. Echo is designed around your voice and can provide music, information, news, weather, and more. Make hands-free calls to anyone and group several Echo devices together to stream music in multiple rooms at once.”
Watch Alexa presenting all her new devices on her 2018 surprise event =) from our AI-News YouTube Channel (just rewind to watch the full episode including news).
My last question was about Lab126 and she remembers it as the small, Cupertino-based subsidiary of Amazon.com.
Yes, her birthplace is Amazons Lab126. 1 for “A” and 26 for “Z”.
Lab126’s Project A is supposedly Kindle and Project B was the Fire Phone. She is the offspring of Project D, which began in 2011 as a branch of the top secret Project C, presumably dealing with some top secret augmented reality, but who knows.
In the early days, one of the big challenges was the latency of her responses, she was rather slow, answering requests took initially around 9 seconds. Amazon managed to speed her up to answer in below 1,5 seconds, better than the industry standard of 2,5 – 3 seconds back then.
The smart home aspect came late in 2014 out of a prototype where Alexa controlled a streaming TV device.
Alexa has already been sold double-digit million times, and as Amazon does not disclose their figures, this is just an estimate. What we do know, is that Alexa initiated a series of advancements in the voice assistant industry, especially for the connected home. Apple and Google are following her way.
Alexa currently speaks English (AU, CA, IN, UK, US), French (CA, FR), German (DE), Italian (IT), Japanese (JP) and Spanish (ES, MX) are supported.
Alexa’s Smart Home Skills
Out of the more than 50.000 skills developed for Amazon Alexa, there are some specialized on smart home. Amazon is working closely with many smart devices manufactures to enable a smooth integration and voice control. Amongst them, we have Philips, Netatmo, Belkin, Logitech, and Nanoleaf, just to mention a few.
Alexa’s Embodiments or Amazons Ec(h)osystem
Since Alexa’s mind is in the cloud, it is definitely more frequently updated than her hardware. Well, with the recent updates in Amazons Echosystem, I am not that sure anymore:
- 11/2014: Alexa starts in the Amazon Echo
- 3/2016: Alexa squeezes into the much smaller Echo Dot
- 2/2017: Alexa becomes portable in the Amazon Tap
- 4/2017: Alexa starts to see, with a camera built into the Echo Look
- 5/2017: Alexa additionally presents information on the Echo Show display
- 9/2017: Amazon Echo receives a makeover, smaller in size and better in sound. Alexa squeezes her display and camera into the Echo Spot, plus integrates a ZigBee smart home hub in the Echo Plus.
- 10/2018: Alexa surprises with many new devices! See the clip above from her surprise event and check out her 2018 birthday post for the latest updates: Alexa, Happy Birthday! Four Years of Devices, Features and Languages
It does not stop with Amazon’s own hardware. Alexa is open to being integrated into devices from other vendors, bringing smartness into their speakers. Soon you will find Alexa in BMWs and Minis, and she will unlock some Nissans.
For more Alexa posts, see the Amazon Alexa page.
If you want to dig deeper into the background of Alexa, enjoy these links: