On Wednesday, Amazon held its Amazon's Devices & Services Event, where the company took the stage to announce its latest hardware and, of course, a whole lot of AI.
Amazon isn't new to AI, with its Alexa personal assistant being the most advanced and prevalent example of AI a decade ago.
However, with the rise of much more advanced generative AI models, the voice assistant's AI capabilities have remained somewhat obsolete. At the event today, Amazon attempted to change that.
The crown jewel of the AI announcements was a more conversational and capable Alexa powered by a new, more powerful LLM, but AI was also sprinkled throughout the new hardware, including the new Fire TV, Echo 8, and more.
ZDNET rounded up all of the biggest, most useful AI announcements so users can start taking advantage of the AI features as soon as possible.
1. Advanced Alexa with new LLM
As delineated above, Alexa was in dire need of an update, and now it's getting a generative AI makeover. The advanced Alexa with the new LLM will have much-anticipated upgrades, including advanced conversational capabilities.
For example, Amazon says Alexa's new "let's chat" feature can essentially do everything popular generative AI chatbots can do, but in a hands-free model. With this feature, users can ask Alexa to do more creative tasks, such as telling a story, giving recipes, creating a date idea, providing the latest game scores, and more.
The assistant's more advanced conversational capabilities even allow users to interrupt her mid-conversation and tweak her prompt with her adjusting accordingly. The advanced Alexa capabilities will be available on all Echo devices through a free preview, even the original one shipped in 2014.
Alexa's advanced capabilities will also help users manage their smart home with more ease. With a user's voice, Alexa can create Routines instead of having to set something up manually on the app. Users will also be able to just conversationally ask for requests instead of having to know the specific names of devices to get something done.
Since Alexa's conversational capabilities have expanded, she will be able to make inferences about what users mean in terms of their household. For example, if they ask Alexa to make their light spooky, she will infer what that means, according to Amazon.
2. Explore with Alexa
The "Explore with Alexa" feature is a new addition to the Amazon Kids+ service that will allow children to participate in "curiosity-driven, kid-friendly conversations with Alexa," according to Amazon.
With this feature, Alexa can provide children with answers to their burning questions, kid-friendly facts, and trivia questions. If your child wants to go off-topic, the feature has guardrails that allow Alexa to redirect the conversation back to the appropriate content.
3. Eye Gaze on Alexa
Available later this year on the Fire 11 Max Tablet, the Eye Gaze on Alexa feature will allow customers with mobility or speech disabilities to use their gaze to make the tablet perform pre-set actions hand and voice-free. The tasks it can perform include playing music and shows, controlling a user's smart home, and even making phone calls, according to Amazon.
4. Fire TV Search
With the new Fire TV Search, users can ask Alexa for Fire TV content through conversational requests as if they were asking a friend, instead of scrolling aimlessly for hours to find something to watch.
For example, users can ask to see content from an actor whose name they forgot or a movie in a specific genre, cost, theme, and other requests. The feature will be made available through an over-the-air update later this year.
5. AI Art on Your TV
AI image generators have been all of the craze, and now Amazon is incorporating that technology into its TVs. Fire TV 4K Max users will be able to describe the art they want to see as its TV home screen, and within seconds, the image will be generated and placed.
Like with any other AI image generator, the possibilities are endless, with the live demo even including a cyberpunk version of the Guggenheim in New York.
6. Call Translation
Call Translation is a new feature that will allow Alexa audio and video calls to be captioned in real time with the proper translation, allowing more people to participate in a conversation without a language barrier.
As someone from a Spanish-speaking household who has to watch my friends say "Si" to everything my grandmother says on the phone, I am excited to see how this feature works.
The captioning will allow deaf or hard-of-hearing customers to improve their phone calls.
7. Echo 8 presence detection
Based on the user's proximity to the Echo Show 8, the device will automatically shift how you see your home screen. The ability to detect someone's presence can be seen as an example of AI.
When users are far away from the device, they will be only shown the essentials, such as a large clock display. However, when they move closer to the Echo Show 8, it will transition to a more detailed UI.