Amazon’s Alexa

 

Because of the rising economy of e-commerce, online stores are popping all over the market with much competitiveness in them. Amazon.com is one of the greatest online sellers in the world. It is an American electronic commerce and a cloud computing company established in Seattle, Washington that was founded on July 5, 1994. It is the largest internet retailer in the world based on revenue and market capitalization and the second largest from Alibaba Group based on total sales. Amazon has retail websites for United States, France, Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and Ireland, Netherlands, Brazil, Japan, China, India, Mexico and the newly launched website in Australia. It continues to grow in other countries and it will seize to exist in every corner of the world.

Amazon surpassed Walmart as the most valuable retailer in the United States based on market capitalization. Amazon has its own product lines on their websites such as apparel, baby products, consumer electronics, beauty products, gourmet food, groceries, health and personal care items, and many more. it also includes AmazonFresh, Amazon Prime, Amazon Web Services, Alexa, Appstore, Amazon Drive, Echo, Kindle, Fire tablets, fire TV, Video, Kindle Store and many more.

Amazon allows the viewers to put their reviews on the web page of the product. Reviewers can rate on the rating scale from one to five stars. Amazon is a retail site with a sales revenue model. They take a small percentage of the sale price of the product if it is sold through their website. Through the years, a lot of improvements and plans that Amazon.com is trying to convey. Such as Amazon’s smart assistant Alexa.

Amazon’s Alexa is an intelligent personal assistant. It is first used in the Amazon Echo and the amazon echo dot devices made by Amazon Lab126. It can do voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, and other real-time information, such as news. Alexa can also control several smart devices using itself as a home automation system. Most devices with Alexa allow users to activate the device using a wake-word while other devices require the user to push a button to activate Alexa’s listening mode. Today, interaction and communication with Alexa are only available in English and German. Last November 2017, Alexa became available in Canada but it offers English only. As of September 2017, Amazon had more than 5,000 employees working on Alexa and related products.

Alexa offers weather reports made possible by  AccuWeather and news which is provided by  TuneIn from a variety of sources. Alexa-supported devices stream music from the owner’s Amazon Music accounts and have built-in support for Pandora and Spotify accounts. Alexa can play music from streaming services such as Apple Music and Google Play Music from a phone or tablet. Alexa can manage voice-controlled alarms, timers, and shopping and to-do lists, and can access Wikipedia articles. Alexa devices will respond to questions about items in the user’s Google Calendar.  Last November 2016,  the Alexa Appstore had over 5,000 skills for users to download, up from 1,000 functions in June 2016. As of a partnership with the fellow technology company, Microsoft, Alexa will be available via its competing virtual personal assistant, Cortana. This functionality was said to come later in 2017 but as of today, it is still not available.

Amazon allows developers to build and publish skills for Alexa using the Alexa Skills Kit. These skills are third-party developed voice experiences that add to the capabilities of any Alexa-enabled device. These skills are available for free download using the Alexa app. Skills are continuously being added to increase the capabilities available to the user. All of the code runs in the cloud – nothing is on any user’s device. A developer can follow tutorials to learn how to quickly build voice experiences for their new and existing applications. Amazon allows device manufacturers to integrate Alexa voice capabilities into their own connected products when using Alexa Voice Service. Products built using AVS have access to Alexa’s growing list of capabilities including all of the Alexa Skills. AVS provides cloud-based automatic speech recognition (ASR) and natural language understanding (NLU). There are no fees for companies looking to integrate Alexa into their products by using AVS. The voice of Amazon Alexa is generated by a long short-term memory artificial neural network.

There are concerns about the access Amazon has to private conversations in the home and other non-verbal indications that can identify who is present in the home with non-stop audio pick-up from Alexa-enabled devices. The device is technically capable of streaming voice recordings at all times, and in fact, will always be listening to detect if a user has uttered the wake word. Amazon uses past voice recordings sent to the cloud service to improve response to future questions the user may pose. To address privacy concerns, the user can delete voice recordings that are currently associated with the user’s account, but doing so may degrade the user’s experience using search functions. To delete these recordings, the user can visit the Manage My Device page on Amazon.com or contact Amazon customer service.

As of December 2017, Alexa is available in 35 countries. Amazon has additionally confirmed that Alexa will launch in Australia and New Zealand Feb 1st, 2018. In September 2016, a university student competition called the Alexa Prize was announced in November of that year. The prize is equipped with a total of $2.5 million and teams and their universities can win cash and research grants. The process starts with a team selection in 2016, final award will be announced in 2017. The 2017 inaugural competition focuses on the challenge of building a socialbot. This is similar to the Loebner Prize, but with higher prize money. Given Amazon’s strong belief in voice technologies, Amazon announced a US$100 million venture capital fund on June 25, 2015. By specifically targeting developers, device-makers and innovative companies of all sizes, Amazon aims at making digital voice assistants more powerful for its users.

 

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