Amazon has sold more than 500 million Alexa-enabled devices, drops 4 new Echo products
Amazon (AMZN) announced on Wednesday that it's now sold more than half-a-billion Alexa-enabled devices. The company also unveiled four new Echo devices.
The four new products are the Echo Pop, a new semi-sphere device; Echo Buds, Alexa-connected wireless headphones; and two new Echo Show 5s, including one specifically built for children. The vision for these new devices, and Alexa at-large, is that Amazon can offer Alexa as an approachable, "personal AI," said Rohit Prasad, Alexa's head scientist, who emphasized safety right-off-the-bat.
"Of course, Alexa should do anything and everything for you, within the bounds of safety norms," he told Yahoo Finance. "Trust is absolutely critical and especially in these times, it's super important that we are all being responsible about how it's being used ... I think we have to constantly be very clear about what Alexa can and cannot do, or will or will not do. I think those points are becoming even more important, and we have the durable tenet of trust being paramount."
The range of new Echo products all meet different needs and, possibly even, different types of consumers, as Amazon works to meet all of the possible use cases for smart home tech. For example, the Echo Pop features a directional speaker, created to facilitate fuller sound. Meanwhile, the Echo Buds – which, yes, appear to have quite a bit in common aesthetically with Apple's (AAPL) AirPods – are meant to be a more portable version of Alexa, allowing users to listen to music or make calls while moving around.
There's also some notable international expansion, as the Echo Auto, an Alexa device for cars, will also now be available in eight new countries, including the U.K., Germany, and Japan.
'In the most responsible fashion'
Prasad also said that, in 2022, Alexa use increased 35%. It's a key announcement – Amazon has been in the midst of slashing jobs across its corporate workforce in recent months, and a number of those layoffs, 2,000 at one point, very specifically affected the company's Alexa division – so much so, that Amazon Devices & Services Senior Vice President Dave Limp had to publicly reassert the tech giant's commitment to the unit.
Prasad said that Alexa remains vital to Amazon's efforts to build out its ecosystem, a sentiment that Steve Bernstein, director and GM of Alexa Games at Amazon, echoed in April.
"The entire smart home industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry that was created with Alexa," said Prasad. "If you think about entertainment, Amazon Music has been growing at an incredible rate because of Alexa, so that's a huge data point. People also don't realize that a lot of shopping happens through Alexa. Shopping attractions are growing 40% year-over-year, and more than 50% of our customers have used Alexa for a shopping attraction. Lastly, even with things that are relatively new in terms of overall capability, Alexa is a trusted information assistant... That makes me very optimistic about Alexa's future, and that's how we think about it at Amazon."
Looking ahead, Prasad added that much-discussed generative AI – popularized by OpenAI's ChatGPT late last year – expressly has its place with Alexa, and is both already in place and consistently developing.
"As we look towards the future, we're already using large language models, or what we call generalized intelligence or generative AI," said Prasad. "We've had a huge investment in this area for a long time... It's constantly making our customer experience better, and Alexa can give you much better answers because of generative AI. It's also set up in Alexa for kids or families with kids, since you can co-create stories with Alexa. So, those are the things where we're bringing the powers of generative AI in the most responsible fashion."
Allie Garfinkle is a Senior Tech Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @agarfinks and on LinkedIn.
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