Amazon's Alexa voice assistant can already control your home lights, call you an Uber and do your online shopping for you, and she's just getting started. The AI found in devices such as Amazon Echo and Echo Dot is constantly getting smarter thanks to new first- and third-party skills, and in a new interview with Backchannel, Amazon VP of Alexa Rohit Prasad teased some of the ways that Alexa is becoming less like a neat piece of tech and more like a real-life sidekick.
Here are five new Alexa features we're excited for.
Alexa Will Hold Better Conversations
You might talk to Alexa every day when asking for the weather or a recipe, but you're not really having a conversation with her. That will change soon. According to Prasad, Alexa will provide more follow-up questions to better serve you when the time is appropriate.
"Alexa shouldn't come back and ask you [needless] questions. That would be really frustrating," Prasad told Backchannel. "But Alexa should always ask a question when needed, and the ability to have a conversation is super important as well."
A Better Vocabulary
The better Alexa's vocabulary, the better she can function. Prasad says that the team is working towards giving Alexa a robust, standardized vocabulary that would work across first- and third-party apps, meaning you'll be able to talk to your Alexa device naturally regardless of what app or function you're trying to access.
While it might be a ways out, Alexa could someday give you help when you need it most, even if you didn't ask for her. When asked if Alexa could someday tell you you're late for an appointment if she hears you moving around your house, Prasad said that it's definitely a possibility.
"We've definitely thought about it," said Prasad. "We want to do things right with anything in terms of the kind of notifications you're talking about. But right now I can't reveal our exact approach to that."
Making Sense of Skills
As Backchannel's Steven Levy notes, Alexa's 5,000 skills can be overwhelming when you're not fully aware of what your Amazon Echo is capable of. Fortunately, it seems like Alexa will soon do a better job educating you on what third-party skills will help you accomplish your goal, which could result in Alexa device owners getting better at making the most of their smart gadgets.
"We definitely want Alexa to tell you how to accomplish your query through a third-party skill, even if you don't have knowledge of the skill," said Prasad.
Powerful New Alexa Devices
These new Alexa features could be amplified by new Alexa-enabled speakers from both Amazon and its partners. Amazon and Intel are partnering on a powerful Intel-powered smart speaker, and rumors point to a next-generation Amazon Echo device that could serve as a mini computer for the family with an interactive touch display.