Your Amazon Alexa might finally understand you better

Amazon Echo
(Image credit: Amazon)

Asking Alexa to control your smart home gadgets is a great way to automate your home, but the conversation can feel stilted and, at times, robotic thanks to the set phrases you have to use when asking Alexa to do things. 

However, Amazon hopes to make this a thing of the past by using AI to anticipate the different phrases and responses you’ll use to ensure Alexa can answer your query successfully without requiring a set phrase to be spoken. 

Alexa Greetings - the recently announced Ring Video Doorbell feature that lets Amazon’s voice assistant answer the door and take a message for you - is one of the first examples of how AI works in this situation following a beta trial of the feature known as Alexa Conversations. Now Amazon has made the service available to any developers in the US that creates skills for Alexa. 

Alexa’s got Skills 

Alexa Skills are the different things Amazon’s voice assistant can do on your behalf, such as turning on a certain brand of smart lights or starting your robot vacuum on a dust busting tour of your home. Once a skill has been downloaded to your smart speaker or smart display, you can use certain phrases to activate them. But the phrases aren’t always as natural as we’d like them to be, and may not be the sort of language you’d use in everyday conversations. For example, you may have to ask Alexa to ask the skill to do something, for example “Ask Workout Buddy for a workout”.  

However, with the new Alexa Conversations service, which was initially launched in Beta in March last year, developers can provide some examples of phrases that could be used with their skill and AI expands this to cover all the possible phrases that might be used, as well as the different routes the conversation could take. 

A step too far?

For many, being able to interact with Alexa in a more natural way will be a welcome improvement. After all, there’s nothing worse than forgetting the correct phrase to use and seeing your frustration levels rise as Alexa can’t process your request. But could humanizing Alexa even more, be a step closer to a world of robot butlers and an automated home where we never lift a finger? Maybe. 

Carrie-Ann Skinner

Carrie-Ann Skinner was formerly Homes Editor at TechRadar, and has more than two decades of experience in both online and print journalism, with 13 years of that spent covering all-things tech. Carrie specializes in smart home devices such as smart plugs and smart lights, as well as large and small appliances including vacuum cleaners, air fryers, stand mixers, and coffee machines. Carrie is now a copy editor at PWC.