Amazon is studying advanced features for its intelligent assistant Alexa. The news would be great if it weren’t for the fact that these capabilities will be made available to those willing to pay to use them. An idea that seems crazy for several reasons, not least the practical ones.
From a purely business point of view, Alexa appears be in crisisso much so that Amazon has long wondered about the fate of its intelligent assistant, even trying to shift the responsibility onto users who, according to the company founded by Jeff Bezos, would not know how to use it.
An analysis that is certainly correct but has a slightly more complex genesis.
The subscription to use Alexa
Amazon has already involved some thousands of users to test Alexa Plus, the paid service that should improve the performance of the intelligent assistant. However, there is no shortage of problems and to understand it we need to take a step back.
Today, Alexa has practical utility when paired with smart devices. Turn the lights on and off, set the heating, listen to music or the news may seem like quirks for lazy people (and, perhaps, in part they are) but they make sense when they satisfy a real need such as, for example, giving support to those with walking problems. Extreme and rare cases compared to the total user base, of course, but of undoubted usefulness.
When faced with more generic questions that go beyond the mere control of devices, Alexa is even unnerving, between questions not understood and answers not aligned with the requests. When it manages to respond to users, it does so by consulting the web, which is limiting in a historical moment in which generative artificial intelligences are able to do much better.
Thus Amazon wants to take a step forward following the progress made by ChatGPT, Copilot or Perplexity and offer users a more immersive and dynamics both in searching for information and in managing connected devices, allowing you to create scenarios to activate when specific circumstances arise.
For example, Alexa could turn off the lights when the natural lighting in the room allows it or potentially turn off an appliance dangerous when there is no one at home or there are minors without adults.
However, the tests are not giving positive results. Amazon employees who are working on the project Alexa Plus they are faced with significant problems, so much so that the digital assistant would provide stilted and imprecise answers. The same employees are asking Amazon to delay the launch of Alexa Plus, convinced that few users would be willing to pay for a low-quality service.
The age-old issue of natural language
Generative artificial intelligences are interfaces between man and machine capable of understanding natural language. In other words, “they understand” what the user is telling them and they behave accordingly.
At present, Alexa is flawed and a more efficient use is almost exclusively possible using the Skills, i.e. small applications created by users to satisfy their own needs (including recreational ones). Creating a Skill is not complicated but it is not something for everyone and, in any case, it takes away the immediacy that generative artificial intelligence instead guarantees.
Offloading the cumbersomeness of Alexa’s logic onto users is an attitude not very auspicious: it is true that users make limited use of it, it is also true that making more advanced use of it is not spontaneous and immediate.