AMAZON'S ALEXA ASSISTANT could soon be able to express a preference on different topics.
A report in TechCrunch reveals that Amazon is actively looking for ways to give the omnipotent one a dog-in-the-fight on matters such as beers, tv shows, movies and so on.
In the US, there's been footage that shows that Alexa is a Budweiser fan, but we've just asked her Limey cousin and she told us: "I've heard Belgian Beers are delicious". Less an opinion, more hearsay.
Amazon Fire TV VP Marc Whitten told an audience at CES: "Having an opinion makes you more interesting, even as an assistant," and compared the idea to an idea from ages past (well, five years ago):
"This is the 2018 version of the video buff at the video rental store," said Whitten. It's like when you ask a friend what's good to watch, and they offer a suggestion that's not necessarily one of the top-rated shows - just something they are enjoying.
"This is the power of machine learning. One of the most interesting things we're going at is how do you design an assistant that feels like you're having a conversation with someone,"
Google has been looking at this for its Assistant product from the outset, with some speculation before launch that ‘she' would have a back story, though this is yet to come to any kind of fruition.
But here's the rub. The problem with Amazon being the buff at Blockbuster or the guy who hogs the stereo at the party is that Alexa is looking to open itself more up to monetisation. As such, if you ask it what comedy you might like, it might be more interested in peddling you the latest Amazon Original than the unbiased results of its machine learning.
It could even suggest going to see Fast and Furious 9 at the cinema, if that's what it has been paid to do, instead of choosing something to watch at home.
Whitten says that some of Alexa's opinions today are already based on machine learning and human intervention rather than editorialising. Though that gives us cause for raised eyebrows, given that it would suggest Alexa actually chose Budweiser willingly over a dirty bucket of TCP and stagnant rainwater and chilli coated peanuts. µ
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