Hi, this is Subham Datta from the Knott and today I have a question for you all. Do you actually know Alexa and its abilities? If you think that Alexa is just another AI assistant that is available right now in the market with some basic abilities to follow commands; you better think again.

Five years ago when Amazon first came up with its first-generation Echo, all Alexa could do was play some songs, sounded the alarms, tell the news and weather etc. It didn’t really measure up with Google Assistant, Cortana or Siri. But that was just the beginning of what Amazon had dreamed. Five years later, Alexa can process over 100,000 skills and can control over 85,000 smart home products. It generates huge datasets about your schedule, preferences, activities, whereabouts etc from the billions of interactions it processes every week. And after all this, it is just getting started.

Presently, Alexa can monitor your baby’s breathing pattern using white noise while sleeping. She can also monitor the baby’s movements and can pinpoint the baby’s location in the room.

Alexa’s head scientist, Rohit Prasad revealed that they are trying to make Alexa’s interactions more proactive. It will then anticipate what the user might want rather than waiting for requests. The plan is to make Alexa ubiquitous companion however, that will require Alexa to know you better than ever. Rohit Prasad also demonstrated a feature called Alexa conversations showing how it might help to plan a night out to go to movies. Rather than initiating a request for every part of the plan, you would only need to begin a conversation by asking to book movie tickets and Alexa would then follow up to ask for relevant requests like to call an Uber or to make a restaurant reservation.

There are several other scenarios that Prasad mentioned like Alexa can find you the Tomatoes section in a market when you are standing in Whole Foods. It can ask if you want to buy cookies from a Girl Scout who’s standing just by your house. And all of these will be possible after collecting a lot more data which also needs a new set of hardware and software. Hardware that will always be with you to collect more data like earbuds. And much more highly trained software that will make use of neural networks and machine learning to think intelligently by recognising voice, location, context. It must also have a very high sense of logical reasoning if it wants to be omnipresent.

However amazing this all may be, all of this comes at a cost of data; data that describes you, that holds intimate information about you. Though Amazon claims that they have provided options for the user to opt-out of this personal data collection and personalized services, they train Alexa with new data as soon as it gets uploaded. So, if you choose to opt-out of these services, Amazon will not collect any new data to train Alexa however, Alexa is already trained on all the previous data that Amazon has collected already.

So, how do you want to be a part of the future? Do you want your privacy or do you want to ease? Do write your thoughts in the comment section.

Thank you and stay knotted!

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