business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Fast Company notes that it has been two years since Amazon introduced its Echo/Alexa voice controlled computer assistant - a launch that was unusually low-key, with Amazon saying that it would only be sold invitation-only to Prime members. My daughter, prescient about such things, applied for and received an invitation, and has been using her Echo constantly and enthusiastically ever since. (I'm following her example - I have an Echo in my home office and an Echo Dot in the kitchen.)

The Fast Company piece, which you can read in its entirety here, looks specifically at the lessons that Amazon has learned so far.

One important lesson was how critical it was to "look forward" while "working backward." The Echo/Alexa system was conceived as being like the computer on Star Trek ... and once that bar was set, Amazon's engineers had specific benchmarks that they had to hit, gaining expertise that matched the established goal.

And the company continues to look forward: "The next frontier for services such as Alexa is interacting in ways that feel less like automated responses to commands and more like genuine human interaction. That's a basic research problem rather than something any one company is likely to fully achieve on its own. So in September, Amazon announced the Alexa Prize, an annual competition, with up to $2.5 million in prizes, in which university students will try to create bots that can intelligently chat about topical matters for 20 minutes."

The goal is to open consumers' eyes with every interaction. The approach ought to open the eyes of competing retailers and suppliers alike.
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