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Amazon’s New AI-Powered Alexa May Come With a Monthly Fee

Amazon is planning a significant overhaul of its Alexa voice assistant and is considering a monthly subscription fee of $5 to $10 for an advanced, AI-powered version of the service, according to a report by Reuters. The revamped Alexa, internally referred to as “Remarkable Alexa,” will incorporate generative AI to handle more complex tasks like composing emails and ordering food with a single command.

The move by Amazon is the most recent development in the company’s longstanding history of trying to make its popular voice assistant product profitable.

This initiative, known internally as Project Banyan, marks the first major update to Alexa since its launch in 2014, reports Reuters, citing several anonymous Amazon employees. The new service aims to provide a more personalized and intelligent assistant, capable of learning user behaviors and creating customized routines. For instance, Remarkable Alexa could automatically start a coffee maker when an alarm goes off or offer tailored shopping recommendations.

Amazon’s push to enhance Alexa comes amid its ongoing efforts to remain competitive in the AI space, facing rivals like Google, Microsoft, and OpenAI. The project is set for a potential launch as early as August, with CEO Andy Jassy emphasizing its importance in a recent letter to shareholders, Reuters reports.

However, there are no plans to bundle the new service with Amazon’s existing Prime membership, which costs $139 per year and includes various benefits like free shipping and access to Prime Video, according to the report.

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Amazon first announced this new advanced AI-driven Alexa last September, saying the virtual assistant will be given a new LLM to make controlling smart home systems easier, more intuitive, and more conversational, something that is currently only being seen in professional-grade solutions, such as Josh.ai.

“The home is one of the most complex and dynamic environments to build for—the new Alexa LLM is capable of managing a nearly endless amount of variation, and it can understand how your specific home is set up to trigger the right APIs and actions,” the company says in an announcement.

For example, instead of asking Alexa to turn up the heat, a homeowner could just say “Alexa, I’m cold,” and the assistant will turn up the heat. Similarly, a homeowner could tell Alexa that the lights are too bright, and the AI assistant will dim the lights.

According to Amazon, Alexa will also be better at understanding context. For example, if a new smart light is added, a user can ask Alexa to “turn on the new light,” and Alexa will infer what is meant.

The new AI capabilities will also make Alexa more conversational with a “new level of smart home intelligence,” the company says. For example, users can combine multiple requests into one. They can also set up an Alexa routine using only their voice.

“You can do this by saying things like ‘Alexa, every morning at 8 a.m., turn off my sound machine, open the blinds, turn on my bedroom lights, and make me some coffee.’ Like magic, every day at 8 a.m., all those things will happen automatically. Then, you could say, ‘Alexa, every night at sunset, make an announcement that it’s bedtime for the kids, dim the lights upstairs, turn on the porch light, and switch on the fan in the bedroom.’”

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