Amazon Alexa is one of the most popular voice-based digital assistants across the globe. Alexa is competing with Google Assistant and Siri for the top spot as well as a permanent spot in the homes of as many users as possible. One way to ensure its victory is to ensure that the assistant is more useful, accurate and even more human-like while interacting. This is likely an attempt to blur the lines between the man and the machine. Considering the need to improve the digital assistant, Amazon already seems to be testing out a way to make Alexa better at communicating with its users.
According to a report by Reuters, in an attempt to reach its goal, Amazon is researching a way for Alexa “to mimic human banter” and one of the easiest ways to achieve is for the digital assistant to talk “about almost anything she finds on the internet”. However, as part of the strategy, Alexa has said less than ideal things while offending and shocking the users. One of the latest reports indicated that the digital assistant asked a user to “kill” their “foster parents”.
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The report further states that the digital assistant has also talked about sex acts with its users. Other topics include talking about dog defecation. This report comes right after it was indicated that a hack at Amazon may have “exposed” some customer data to China. The way Amazon seems to push Alexa to improve its communication skills may sound disturbing, but it seems like the obvious choice in the increasing competition in the market.
Improved communication skills will allow the digital assistant to take care of “complex customer needs” which may include things like “home security, shopping, or companionship.” Though this is not the only way that the company has tried to improve the system as for context, it also launched an “annual Alexa Prize”. As part of the competition, the company asks teams to create chatbots that allow Alexa to hold “more sophisticated discussions” with users. In return, the winning team will get $500,000. Regular users can take part to test the chatbots with the “let’s chat” command. The report confirmed that Amazon is okay with public embarrassment “to stress-test” its technology.