If you ask Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant what the best movie is, it currently checks IMDB ratings and gives you an answer. While that can be useful information, it’s not necessarily going to help you pick something to watch. If you ask for song recommendations, Alexa will use your past listening habits to find similar music you may like. That’s better than simply playing the top Billboard song, but not as good as asking a friend what they’ve been listening to lately to discover new music. Amazon is working on making Alexa more interesting to talk to, and in turn more useful, by giving it its own opinion on things that is not purely based on general popularity or your own habits.
If you ask Alexa what its favorite beer is, it currently responds with “definitely Budweiser.” According to Amazon Fire TV VP Marc Whitten, who spoke with TechCrunch, that response is an example of Alexa having its own opinion, meaning the response was not curated by humans. With Alexa continuing to expand into more countries, Whitten says “you can’t editorialize opinion on everything. That doesn’t work. The ambitious goal is that you don’t have to do [human curation].”
A far too familiar livingroom scenario for many of us is spending more time looking for something to watch than actually watching content. Having an opinionated voice assistant to query in home entertainment scenarios would be far more useful than one that simply dictates what’s popular.
With Amazon expected to release a new Fire TV later this year that has a built-in speaker and microphones for Alexa, it’s easy to see the scenario that Amazon is working towards. Instead of picking up the remote and endlessly browsing lists to find something to watch, you’d just ask Alexa to pick. Mixing in genuine opinion, even if it’s generated through machine learning and deep learning networks, should give Alexa more interesting choices.