Amazon launches Care Hub for Alexa to ask you more questions

The virtual assistant can now predict your goals.

3 min read

This article has been translated from our English edition.

Amazon launches Care Hub for Alexa to ask you more questions
Amazon launches Care Hub for Alexa to ask you more questions

This story originally appeared on PCMag

Christmas has come early for Amazon users Alexa. With the latest update to the virtual assistant, customer goals can be better predicted and remote maintenance easier.

Ideally, interacting with Alexa would be “as natural as interacting with another person,” says Amazon, which had previously integrated sophisticated conversation experiences into the AI.

Predict goals

On the road to the Holy Grail, Amazon this week rolled out a capability that Alexa can use to infer “latent goals” from customers: requests you didn’t even know you wanted to make.

For example, ask how long does it take to soak the tea and the latent goal might be to set a timer to soak a cup of tea. Alexa might suggest, “Five minutes is a good start,” then go on to ask if you’d like to set a five-minute timer.

“Transitions like this seem easy,” wrote Amazon artificial intelligence researchers Anjishnu Kumar and Anand Rathi in a blog post. “Under the hood, however, there are a number of sophisticated algorithms running to identify latent goals, formulate them in actions that often involve different skills, and present them to customers in a way that doesn’t feel disruptive.”

Obviously, not all conversations have a latent goal; In order to ask Alexa about “chicken recipes” doesn’t need a track to play chicken sounds (as an initial prototype was mistakenly assumed). That responsibility is left to a deep learning-based triggering model that takes into account various aspects of the dialogue context, including whether the user has dealt with suggestions for multiple skills in the past.

The feature, which is currently available in English in the US, will improve with use. That said, if you regularly ask about the weather forecast, Alexa may one day automatically offer tips for an umbrella or sunscreen.

When you live alone, plants and clever assistants are often your closest companions, especially during a pandemic that forces families to remotely support aging loved ones. That’s why Amazon introduced Care Hub – a set of features designed to make remote care easier.

Your family member or friend will need an Echo or Alexa-enabled device. You can connect using the Alexa mobile app to access alerts, activity information, and two-way calls. Security measures limit what people can see. While you may notice that your parents used Alexa for entertainment, they don’t know what song or podcast they listened to or what command they used.

Perhaps most importantly, the Care Hub also serves as an emergency contact solution. In a crisis, simply say “Alexa, please help” and the device will call the specified informant, send an SMS or send a notification.

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