In just under a decade, Alexa has become a household name, helping users do everything from play music to answer homework questions. Now, the voice assistant is getting a big dose of AI and some new devices to work on.
Amazon recently held a “Devices & Services Event” at their new HQ in Virginia and there, they showed off Alexa’s new AI supercharged voice, which is coming in 2024.
The theme of the entire event is how Amazon is going all in on AI to help take its devices to the next level.
Amazon did a comparison of Alexa’s voice when it launched in 2014 to how it will sound early next year, and the difference is quite distinct. You can watch the video below to hear it yourself.
The company promises a more conversational experience when interacting with Alexa, finding what to watch and controlling smart devices.
“We’ve been on the journey to create that superhuman assistant for more than a decade now but with generative AI it’s now within reach,” said outgoing Amazon Devices & Services head Dave Limp. He helped invent Alexa and the Echo Speaker.
If you want to try out Alexa’s new AI mode, you can say “Alexa, let’s chat.” Keep in mind it might not work immediately, Amazon says the beta test is coming soon.
Amazon is also updating their Echo Frames to look more like regular glasses. They’re slimmer, audio is better, and the battery lasts longer. In my review of the last version, I really liked them a lot so this will be a great update.
“My organization gets countless stories of customers who have used our devices when they need it most, after suffering a fall or even having a heart attack,” explained Alexa VP Heather Zorn.
Now, Alexs is getting a feature called Emergency Assist. It’s a handsfree way to call for help from an Echo device. It doesn’t directly dial 911 but it will connect you to an agent who can relay to first responders. It’s $6 a month or $60 a year.
The neat thing here is that you can set up a profile before you ever need help so the call center can pass along critical information like medical history, allergies and more.
A new accessibility feature called Eye Gaze allows users to control a tablet just by looking, no voice or touch necessary. It will be free when it launches on the Fire Max 11 tablet.
“We’re very excited about its potential and can’t wait to learn how it’s working for our customers,” said Zorn.
Two new Fire TV sticks are faster and more powerful, but the coolest new addition is how AI is supercharging the experience.
You can find stuff to watch by asking questions you might have asked a video store clerk back in the day.
Amazon showed off a quick demo by saying “search for that comedy by you know the guy who played the lawyer in Breaking Bad,” and Alexa responded with “I think you mean Lucky Hank starring Bob Odenkirk.”
Another amazing new feature on the top-of-the-line Fire TV Stick 4K Max (2nd gen) is that it can turn any TV into a photo frame when you’re not actively using it. Amazon calls this their “Ambient” experience, and it debuted on their high-end TV’s last year.
The streaming stick will show info like the weather, artwork or your own photos, which you can now instantly transform thanks to AI.
Amazon showed off a super cool demo where they took a snapshot and asked Alexa to change it into a watercolor style photo or a cyberpunk photo and it transformed the photos immediately.
Finally, the company showed off a new plug and play Fire TV soundbar, which is $120.
Amazon is giving customers who buy one of their new Fire TV sticks 6 months of their streaming service called MGM+, with movies from the iconic studio, which Amazon purchased a few years ago.