Amazon's Alexa will soon be able to schedule a whole movie night out
A multi-skill capability will let you set up movie tickets, dinner reservations and an Uber ride all in one conversation.
Ben Fox RubinFormer senior reporter
Ben Fox Rubin was a senior reporter for CNET News in Manhattan, reporting on Amazon, e-commerce and mobile payments. He previously worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and got his start at newspapers in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Alexa works just fine for call-and-response requests, like asking about the weather or finding out what NBA game is on or playing a Jerry Douglas song.
But this model can be irritating for customers looking for more information all at once, since they have to constantly query with the word "Alexa" over and over again as they bounce between different Alexa skills to get what they want.
Looking to push Alexa into becoming a more efficient and conversational digital assistant, Amazon on Wednesday introduced a new capability for Alexa to be able to string together multiple requests into a more seamless dialogue.
Rohit Prasad, the head scientist for Alexa's artificial intelligence team, helped demonstrate this new ability during a keynote address at Amazon's re:MARS conference Wednesday.
In a video he introduced, a woman's voice asked Alexa about movie showtimes, then was able to quickly transition into buying movie tickets, finding a dinner reservation then setting up an Uber ride, all without having to repeatedly say Alexa or query the voice assistant with convoluted dialogue.
Amazon said this night-out planning capability will be coming to customers in a few months, first in the US.
The new capability should bring Alexa one step closer to becoming a more human-like assistant, allowing it to integrate more easily with people and helping Amazon make its assistant more of a must-have for customers. Google and Apple, too, have been working on making their assistants more conversational.
Prasad on Wednesday said Alexa has become more than 20% more accurate, thanks to advances in machine learning. He added that Alexa is now able to learn faster by automatically stringing together related requests, such as "Play the ABC song" and "Play the Alphabet song."
Plus, Amazon has done more to remove skill names from requests, so customers can now say, "Alexa, start cleaning," instead of, "Alexa, ask Roomba to start cleaning."
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Prasad also emphasized consumer privacy, mentioning Amazon's newly launched privacy hub for Alexa and additional tools to allow customers to delete their audio recordings.