Amazon’s Alexa will soon have memory, better understand follow-up questions, and launch skills automatically

In a keynote talk at the World Wide Web Conference and in a post on Amazon’s developer blog, Amazon has revealed a few new capabilities that will soon be coming to Alexa. The upcoming abilities include Alexa being able to remember things you tell it, a better understanding of follow-up questions, and the ability to recognize when one of the 40,000 Alexa skills could better fulfill your request.

Alexa’s upcoming memory feature is straightforward but should be powerful. You’ll be able to tell Alexa to remember something and will then be able to retrieve it at a later date. The example giving is asking “Alexa, remember that Sean’s birthday is June 20th.” Amazon says this memory feature is the first of many this year that will make Alexa more personalized.

Alexa already has the ability to understand the context of questions and respond appropriately to follow-up questions. For example, you can ask how tall an athlete is and then ask “how much does he/she weight” without repeating the athlete’s name. Amazon says Alexa will be able to understand follow-up questions even if a pronoun isn’t involved. The example given is asking “Alexa, how’s the weather in Portland?” and then following up with “How long does it take to get there?” These new context carryover capabilities make good use of Alexa’s new follow-up mode.

Lastly, Alexa will be able to automatically open skills, even if you don’t have them enabled, without the need to call for them specifically. The example given is asking “Alexa, how do I remove an oil stain from my shirt?” Alexa does not know the answer to the question, but will be able to recognize that the Tide Stain Remover skill can answer it and will, therefore, launch the skill automatically. While most people would likely never go seeking out a skill from Tide on their own, Alexa can surface it and many others when it’s useful.

Alexa’s ability to remember is said to be coming later this year. The voice assistants ability to automatically find and launch appropriate skills will be available in the coming weeks.

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