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Tech Crunch reports that Amazon is planning to release a software update to its Alexa-powered smart speaker system that will allow it “to recall information you’ve directed her to remember, as well as have more natural conversations that don’t require every command to begin with “Alexa.”

The story says Alexa also will be able “to launch skills in response to questions you ask, without explicit instructions to do so. The features are the first of what Amazon says are many launches this year that will make its virtual assistant more personalized, smarter, and more engaging.”

According to TechCrunch, “the Alexa Brain initiative is focused on improving Alexa’s ability to track context and memory within and across dialog sessions, as well as make it easier for users to discover and interact with Alexa’s now over 40,000 third-party skills.”

Ruhi Sarikaya, who runs the Alexa Brain Group for Amazon, speaking at the World Wide Web Conference in Lyon, France, said, “We have many challenges still to address, such as how to scale these new experiences across languages and different devices, how to scale skill arbitration across the tens of thousands of Alexa skills, and how to measure experience quality.

“Additionally, there are component-level technology challenges that span automatic speech recognition, spoken language understanding, dialog management, natural language generation, text-to-speech synthesis, and personalization. Skills arbitration, context carryover and the memory feature are early instances of a class of work Amazon scientists and engineers are doing to make engaging with Alexa more friction-free.”
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