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Amazon's Alexa will use 'intuition' to know what you want before you do

Hannah Boland
Amazon unveiled the new feature last night, along with the Amazon Clock

Amazon has unveiled a new feature that will allow its AI assistant, Alexa, to tell you what you want and remind you if you've forgotten anything.  

Known as "Alexa Hunches", the tool allows Alexa to learn how you interact with your smart devices by monitoring everything from your home TV to your lights and kitchen appliances. 

It can then pick up a pattern, such as turning the TV off before bed or locking the doors at night. If you forget to do something in your routine, Alexa will remind you, either through an Echo speaker or an Android phone. 

Daniel Rausch, the company's vice president of the 'smart home' division, said: "We’ve reached a point with deep neural networks and machine learning that we can actually program intuition."

The feature, which should be activated later this year, will require all devices to be linked to Amazon's Alexa home assistant.

Alexa will then prompt owners to follow the same pattern, asking questions such as: 'Do you want to turn the outside light off?' If users choose not to, Hunches should be able to guess why. 

Speaking at the company's event in Seattle, senior vice president of devices and services Dave Limp outlined Amazon's plan to make Alexa more interactive.

Mr Limp said its Alexa assistant had learned "tens of thousands of things" in the last year, and also announced new features to make it more knowledgeable, opinionated, conversational and conscientious.

He revealed a new feature that can understand if a user whispers to the device in an attempt to keep the noise down, with Alexa now knowing to whisper in response.

Amazon also demonstrated a new feature it calls Alexa Guard, which can recognise the sound of window glass breaking through connected home security devices and warn users of a potential break-in.

The researchers said, after incorporating the strategies, the machines were able to come up with plans that were "more like human-generated plans", which made them more "interpretable" to a person. 

It is no surprise that Amazon is seeking to push ahead in this area, given its recent focus on 'smart home' devices.

As well as its Echo speaker devices, Amazon also recently bought a smart doorbell maker Ring and it launched an 'in-home delivery' service in the US last year, where people could essentially grant delivery drivers access to their homes through smart-locking systems. 

At its event on Thursday, it announced a whole series of new 'smart devices' including plugs, a clock and a microwave, which could be controlled by Alexa.

It said these devices would in future be easier to connect to a users' Wi-Fi networks, meaning they would not have to enter passwords. The company said it was at the "tipping point" of smart home. 

Amazon is not alone in developing this technology. It is an area where many different companies have been focusing their research on.

Last year, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology claimed they had made a breakthrough in adding human intuition into algorithms, by assessing the strategies of "high performing human planners".