Amazon Alexa gains new abilities and more privacy controls

Ewdison Then - Sep 24, 2020, 8:31pm CDT
Amazon Alexa gains new abilities and more privacy controls

Amazon announced quite a handful of new products today, including some from its Ring subsidiary, but it isn’t just bringing new hardware to its customers. The e-commerce giant also announced upgrades to the hands-free experience that powers many of its devices, giving the AI-powered Alexa more skills and more brains. Going beyond that, however, Amazon is also trying to address one of Alexa’s most unpopular flaw: its privacy.

Although it started out awkwardly and almost humorously, Alexa has grown up to give Google and its Google Assistant a run for its money. What it lacks in access to Internet content, Alexa makes up for in ubiquity and support for third-party devices and services. In line with “Amazon Day”, the company is also announcing a number of improvements to Alexa’s capabilities.

There are new skills, of course, ranging from being able to do group calls to adding whimsical video effects to video calls to asking it for dinner suggestions. Alexa will also have new sound detectors to alert you to a baby’s cry or break-ins, at which point you can also get Amazon Echo devices to sound an alarm or play the sound of dogs barking.

All of these are, of course, powered by AI and machine learning, most of which are learned as it goes. Amazon, however, is giving users a bit more manual control in explicitly teaching Alexa your preferences rather than having it learn over time through trial and error. Next year, you will even be able to ask Alexa to join in on a group conversation so that you won’t have to trigger it over and over again.

Alexa, however, hasn’t exactly been known for its privacy settings, an image that Amazon has been aggressively pushing against. Starting today, you can now make Alexa immediately delete voice recordings after they have been processed or even use voice control to delete everything you’ve said so far. Amazon says it will send out a notice before the year ends that will remind users about the options they have to protect their privacy.

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