Fri. Jul 12th, 2024

June 21, San Francisco According to people with direct knowledge of the company’s plans, Amazon (AMZN.O), opens new tab is planning a major overhaul of its ten-year-old, financially disastrous Alexa service. The company wants to include a conversational generative AI with two tiers of service, and it has considered charging a monthly fee of about $5 to access the superior version.
Internally dubbed “Banyan,” after the vast ficus trees, the project would be the voice assistant’s first significant redesign since it debuted in 2014 alongside the Echo speaker range. According to the people, Amazon has named the new voice assistant “Remarkable Alexa.”

Eight former and current Alexa workers who talked on the condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to discuss sensitive initiatives are among the sources.

According to three sources, Amazon has given employees till August to get ready for the latest version of Alexa. They also mentioned that CEO Andy Jassy has expressed a personal desire to see Alexa given fresh life. Without giving further information, Jassy promised a “more intelligent and capable Alexa” in a letter to shareholders sent in April. The company’s plans for Alexa, including costs and delivery dates, might change or be scrapped based on how Project Banyan develops, the people said. “We have already integrated generative AI into different components of Alexa, and are working hard on implementation at scale—in the over half a billion ambient, Alexa-enabled devices already in homes around the world—to enable even more proactive, personal, and trusted assistance for our customers,” said an Amazon spokeswoman in a statement.

The service, which can be used as a hub to control household appliances and offers spoken responses to user inquiries like the local weather, was a pet project of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who had an idea for a technology that could mimic the fictional voice computer depicted in the television series Star Trek.
Amazon needs to stay ahead of its competitors in the generative AI space because companies like Microsoft (MSFT.O), Google (GOOGL.O), and OpenAI have gained more positive press for their so-called chatbots, which can react to complex prompts or queries in nearly real time with complete sentences.

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