OneZero spoke to Rohit Prasad, chief scientist for Alexa, about the new tone-detecting feature.
Amazon knows that Alexa doesn’t get everything right, so the virtual personal assistant is picking up a new trick later this year: Guessing when you’re frustrated.
The feature represents a fundamental shift in how Alexa understands the people talking to it. A conversation with Rohit Prasad, vice president and chief scientist for Alexa, reveals that the virtual assistant now analyzes not just what you’re saying, but your tone of voice when telling Alexa it got a command wrong. Rather than trying to understand what you said, Alexa also analyzes how you say it.
“As customers continue to use Alexa more often, they want her to be more conversational and can get frustrated when Alexa gets something wrong,” Amazon wrote in a blog post announcing the feature Wednesday. “When she recognizes you’re frustrated with her, Alexa can now try to adjust, just like you or I would do.”
The feature will be limited at first. It’s initially rolling out only for music requests. If you ask Alexa to play a song and it starts the wrong one, you can say “No, Alexa” and it will apologize and ask for a clarification.
Prasad tells OneZero that the update is similar to a feature that rolled out a few months ago, which prompts Alexa to respond quietly if a command is whispered to it — perfect for setting an alarm without waking your sleeping partner.
When you ask Alexa a question, two additional deep neural networks will analyze your voice.
“It’s magical when you walk in late to your bedroom and your wife is asleep,” Prasad says. “Of course, the cost of a mistake is very high there.”
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