Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) introduced a “smarter and more conversational” version of its Alexa voice assistant that the company hopes will bolster its position in the tech industry’s artificial intelligence race.
The company hosts an annual devices bonanza, where it typically unveils a smattering of new hardware and software products. In his final keynote address at the event Wednesday, Amazon’s devices chief Dave Limp showed off a demo of an updated Alexa that’s freshly equipped with features powered by generative AI.
Limp, a 13-year veteran of Amazon, plans to step down from his role later this year.
From an event space at its new second headquarters in northern Virginia, Amazon showed a montage in which Alexa users were seen asking an Echo smart speaker for information such as the “best dates to travel to Puerto Rico.” One man requested that Alexa tell him a story about balloons, before abruptly changing his mind and asking for a tale about Jell-O.
There were a few hiccups during Limp’s demo. At times, Alexa lagged in its response, and at a few points, Limp had to repeat his question to get an answer.
Amazon calls the new feature “Let’s chat,” and said it will be available as an “early preview” for existing Echo owners in the coming weeks.
The new Alexa will have a more human-like voice and will be able to hold more natural conversations without being prompted by a wake word. It will also learn about users with each new interaction.
AMZN shares slid $3.44, or 2.6%, to $131.84.