A more ‘humanlike’ Alexa? Amazon shows off ‘home of the future’ and what’s next for voice AI


Inside its corporate headquarters in Seattle, Amazon provided NBC’s “Today” show with an exclusive look behind closed doors at the “home of the future,” where the chief occupant is Alexa, the tech giant’s omnipresent voice assistant.

Toni Reid, Amazon’s vice president for the Alexa experience and Echo Devices group, led the tour around the mock, all-voice-controlled home, telling NBC’s Jo Ling Kent that Amazon wants to know how customers are using its devices in a natural environment. When it comes to products such as Echo, “You don’t know what you’re missing until you actually use the device,” Reid said.

And those who haven’t come across Alexa lately would be missing that the company is striving to make its AI more “humanlike.” Reid addressed some concerns around that ambition.

“A lot of people were having conversations with Alexa, some of these things didn’t need a response … ‘Alexa, I love you,’ ‘Alexa, I’m lonely,’ ‘I’m sad,’ ‘I’m happy,” Reid said. “We’re really thoughtful about some of the responses we have, and sometimes you can be lighthearted and fun and other times you have to be thoughtful about it, if someone says, ‘I’m depressed,’ how do you handle that?”

Reid also talked about consumer privacy concerns, saying that security is a chief concern for the company and that users can “absolutely” trust Alexa.

Amazon also told Kent that personalization is the focus of what’s next for Alexa, saying that the technology will be able to recognize different voices from different users and tailor responses accordingly. But that promise had been previously revealed last fall.

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