The emergence of artificial intelligence and machine learning in household gadgets is “gigantic,” according to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO
Speaking at the Code conference in California last week, Bezos, whose company has a hit on its hand with the Echo connected speaker, said “it’s hard to overstate how big of an impact AI will have on society over the next 20 years. It is big. It doesn’t mean phones are going to go away or that voice actions will replace screens. As long as people have eyes, they have screens.”
The Echo speaker can turn on lights, access online music and answer queries by waking the speaker by stating the word Alexa. Amazon hasn’t revealed sales stats, but says the product is hard to keep in stock. Bezos said Amazon has 1,000 people working on Alexa and the Echo.
The success of Amazon’s Echo has struck a chord with competitors. Google will release a similar product, Google Home, later in the year, and Apple is said to be looking to launch a connected speaker as well.
Bezos revealed that Amazon was working on Alexa technology for four years behind the scenes before bringing it to market. “This is the first innings – there is so much more to come. We’re the first guys up to bat. We’re on the edge of a golden era”, he said.
Beyond its own device, Amazon lets outside developers embed Alexa into other products. Bezos said the company’s constant building of algorithms, vast computing power and decades of training data from its recommendation engine makes Alexa possible.
And it’s only going to get smarter.
“Those three things are coming together to solve some previously unsolvable problems,” he said. “They’re going to drive a tremendous amount of utility for customers.”
This message of AI’s impact was echoed at the same conference. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company sensed a shift happening in AI three or four years ago, and made a transformation internally. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates called AI “the holy grail.”
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