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Why Amazon is laying off some of the employees who develop Alexa

An Amazon Echo Pop speaker © Amazon

Amazon announces the reduction of the team formed in 2010 to develop Alexa. The firm plans to lay off “a few hundred people” which according to the official press release “represents a relatively small number out of the total number of people in the Devices division that create quality experiences for our customers”.

For several months, the firm has been making cuts to its teams – against a backdrop of slowing growth and a rather unfavorable context for part of the sector. After a first wave of massive layoffs, Amazon continues to make some adjustments. Particularly concerned this time are the members of the team formed in 2010 to develop the Alexa assistant.

Amazon has never managed to properly monetize its voice assistant

It must be said that Amazon is seeing more and more development of the assistant ” by hand, feature after feature, as an unsustainable strategy. Instead, Amazon would prefer to move Alexa into the era of generative AI, ChatGPT style. Enough to finally allow users to obtain real answers and carry out actions more fluidly whatever the request.

But not only that, since for the moment (and according to a “preliminary overview” shown last September), the specifications include a faster response time, ability to talk to Alexa without starting the query with the word Alexa (or other user-defined shebang in settings) – or to be able to converse in a more natural and fluid way.

The success of the Amazon voice assistant (and connected speakers) is undeniable. Amazon alone holds two-thirds of the US connected speaker market, and according to Statista, Alexa responds to some 1 billion interactions per week. Small Echo speakers can be found everywhere, including in France. But Amazon is not doing this just to deliver yet another connected gadget to its customers. The firm has sought from the beginning to encourage users to use Alexa to spend on Amazon.

However, the current version of the assistant is too limited, and the overwhelming majority of interactions essentially consist of starting/stopping music playback, turning lights on/off or setting alarms or timers. An Alexa truly powered by AI could more effectively understand user intent and offer them, when relevant, objects or services that they can purchase.

For the moment, Amazon does not officially have an AI at the level of ChatGPT. However, since April, the firm's AWS division has been offering flexible solutions for individuals and businesses looking to train their own model – through the Bedrock platform. To optimize its efforts, Amazon has partnered with Anthropic and AI2I, two startups working on language models comparable to ChatGPT – and offers other models such as Stable Diffusion (Stability AI).

It remains to be seen how quickly the firm can develop a completely new version of the assistant under the name “Stability AI”. umbrella of generative AI. Because even with the necessary tools in hand, it seems impossible to do without recruiting talent from MIT and other major American universities… We therefore imagine that new positions will soon be filled at Amazon. It remains to be seen whether they will compensate in volume for recent layoffs.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116