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Amazon's Alexa might become your personal Einstein

Amazon nabs an AI expert from eBay, upping the voice assistant stakes against Siri, Cortana and Google Now.

Taylor Martin/CNET

Want a smarter Alexa, savvier Siri, brainier Google Now or a cleverer Cortana? So do Amazon, Apple, Alphabet and Microsoft -- and each is working to make its voice assistant your personal Einstein of choice. Amazon recently enhanced its efforts by nabbing an AI expert from eBay, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Hassan Sawaf is now Amazon's director of artificial intelligence, focusing on "the user experience for users of Amazon's search capability across all products and businesses," according to Sawaf's LinkedIn page. The Journal was one of the first to spot Sawaf's updated responsibilities on LinkedIn.

"eBay has wide and deep capabilities in AI across the technology organization, and recently completed two acquisitions...that contribute tech and talent to our AI and machine learning/machine translation capabilities," an eBay spokeswoman said in an email.

Amazon didn't respond to a request for comment.

Alexa could eventually outsmart those rival voice assistants, and ultimately move beyond its original home in the Amazon Echo smart speaker. The world's largest e-commerce company has even held talks with Lenovo on the possibility of adding Alexa to Lenovo's computers and other devices, CNET reported Thursday. Regardless of whether Alexa actually makes its way onto Lenovo PCs, the talks highlight Amazon's efforts to spread the service across more kinds of electronics.

Sawaf has more than 20 years of experience in human language technology, pattern and speech recognition, and machine translation, according to his eBay biography.

First published September 2, 1:53 p.m. PT.
Update, 4:15 p.m.:
Adds comment from eBay; corrects Sawaf's previous position with eBay.