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Smart Home

Total recall? Amazon's giving Alexa a better memory

New features are on the way for Amazon's voice assistant -- including the ability to remember things about you.

Ian Knighton/CNET

New features are on the way once more for Amazon's Alexa, the company announced in a blog post Thursday. Specifically, she's set to receive three upgrades over the course of the coming weeks:

    Alexa's about to get some new features -- including the ability to remember things about you.

    Ian Knighton/CNET
  • Skills Arbitration -- Alexa will discover, enable and launch skills on her own based on the specific thing you're asking her to do. Ask her how to remove an oil stain from your shirt, for instance, and she might launch the Tide Stain Remover skill, regardless of whether or not you even knew it existed.
  • Context Carryover -- Alexa should soon be able to better handle follow-up questions, specifically ones that don't include pronouns. Previously, you could already follow-up some questions using pronoun-based language (for instance "What is Sean Connery's birthday?" and then "How many movies has he been in?") Now, Alexa will be able to handle follow-up questions that aren't quite as clear cut (for instance, "What's the weather in Indianapolis?" and then "How about tomorrow?")
  • Memory -- Alexa will soon remember anything that you tell her to remember. Say, "Alexa, remember that Dad's birthday is January 18th," and she will.

Ruhi Sarikaya, Amazon's Director of Applied Science for Alexa Machine Learning, highlighted the new features during a keynote speech at the World Wide Web Conference in Lyon, France. In the blog post accompanying his speech, he writes that the Memory feature is "the first of many launches this year that will make Alexa more personalized."

Amazon also notes that Context Carryover will be coming soon to all Alexa users in the US, as well as users in the UK and Germany. Skills Arbitration and Memory will be US-only at launch -- no word yet from Amazon on if or when we should expect them to roll out to other regions, but it seems like a safe bet.