AMAZON IS reported to be in the process of designing AI chips for future Echo devices to allow it to more quickly come back with answers when tasked.
As the battle for the smart home intensifies, Amazon needs for Alexa to be that bit better than its rivals to keep its dominant position.
We already know that Google has AI chips - so much so that it gave one away on the front of a magazine last year. Apple, too, has its own GPU for Siri. If Amazon starts building its own chips too, it will be put right into the path of the likes of Nvidia, which has seen its GPUs become a central plank of the AI wars.
The key advantage to this set up would be that Alexa would be able to parse your voice pattern against commonly used phrases on the device, without having to bounce up to the cloud and back.
The reports which first surfaced on The Information (paywalled) suggests that the AI chips will also be used for Amazon Web Services (AWS), to allow users a more intuitive experience.
By moving the process onto a device, it would also improve the ability of Alexa to infer what you want for even complicated multi part questions.
It already does pretty well at "What's the weather like today?"… "OK, what about tomorrow" but this would mean that it was able to feel more conversational over a series of questions in a way that doesn't feel as natural with the latency between the cloud and the device as it stands.
Additionally, let's address the elephant in the room, if an AI chip "knew" the personal stuff, it wouldn't have to be in the cloud and that is probably going to be just that bit better for your privacy.
Amazon was one of the early bidders when Toshiba's chip business was up for grabs. It has already spent $350m on chipmaker Annapurna Labs, and is rumoured to have spent $90m on smart camera maker Blink. The latter may not seem relevant, but Blink's cameras last for up to two years on a couple of AA batteries, and if Amazon can harness that energy efficiency for the rest of its ecosystem, it'll be quite a coup. µ
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