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• Interesting piece in the New York Times about how a major priority for Amazon was to make its Alexa-powered smart speaker assistants more empathetic, especially with the growth of AI and machine learning technology.

Dave Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president for devices and services, puts it in very human terms: ““If you’re an adult and you say you’re depressed or suicidal, or you’re potentially a victim of domestic abuse and you’re talking to Alexa in that way, we’ve talked to experts about what we should do in those situations. Alexa would try to connect you to a suicide hotline or domestic abuse hotlines.”

Limp goes on: “Do we need to make her more conversational and less transactional over time? Yes … We have thousands of people working on that right now. The goal would be that an assistant of your choice would have exactly the kind of conversation that we’re having right now.”

The story notes that “Amazon announced recently that it had sold more than 100 million Alexa devices … Last year Amazon Echo accounted for 70 percent of installed smart speakers in the United States, while Google Home made up 24 percent and Apple HomePod 6 percent, according to a recent survey by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.”
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