Technology

Amazon looks to make Alexa more personal and conscientious

New features for the virtual assistant include the ability to identify sounds linked to a burglary.

Amazon is making its virtual assistant Alexa more personal and conscientious in its bid to control the smart home market.

Speaking at the company’s event to unveil new smart home devices, senior vice president of devices and services Dave Limp outlined Amazon’s plan to make Alexa more interactive.

The company has spoken of its desire to dominate the smart home market, ahead of the likes of Google and Apple, which followed Amazon into the space after the first Echo smart speaker was revealed in the US in 2014.

Mr Limp said its Alexa assistant had learned “tens of thousands of things” in the last year, and also announced new features to make it more knowledgeable, opinionated, conversational and conscientious.

He revealed a new feature that can understand if a user whispers to the device in an attempt to keep the noise down, with Alexa now knowing to whisper in response.

Amazon also demonstrated a new feature it calls Alexa Guard, which can recognise the sound of window glass breaking through connected home security devices and warn users of a potential break-in.

Technology around the smart home market is at a “tipping point” as thousands of new appliances become available, Mr Limp added.

(Martyn Landi/PA)
Amazon’s new Echo line-up (Martyn Landi/PA)

He said momentum around the gadgets was “incredible”, adding that the number of smart home products available was now more than 20,000.

A quarter of UK homes now own a smart home device, and analyst IDC has predicted the smart speaker market to be worth more than 17 billion dollars (£12.8bn) by 2022.

Amazon unveiled a wide range of smart home devices around its Echo smart speakers, but also expanded into other areas of the home with a new Smart Plug, microwave and wall clock, all of which can be controlled by virtual assistant Alexa.

The new products also include the Echo Sub, a subwoofer to boost audio playback from existing Echo smart speakers, and the Echo Input, which connects to existing speaker systems and gives them Alexa capabilities.

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