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Amazon Employees Frustrated over the Lost Opportunity to Rule the AI Business

At a packed event at the Seattle-based tech giant’s palatial second headquarters in the Washington DC suburbs, Limp showcased the updated Alexa to a room full of journalists and enthusiastic employees. He demonstrated how, in response to the new trigger phrase, “Alexa, let’s chat,” the digital assistant responded in a far more natural and conversational voice than the friendly-but-robotic one that hundreds of millions of people have grown accustomed to using for weather updates, reminders, timers, and music requests.

Limp asked Alexa how his favorite football team, Vanderbilt University, was doing. Alexa demonstrated how it might answer in a cheerful tone and send a message to his buddies reminding them to watch the upcoming Vanderbilt football game to their phones.

The new Alexa LLM, according to the company, will soon be accessible as a free preview for Alexa-powered devices in the United States. Amazon’s SVP and Alexa leader, Rohit Prasad, said the development signified a “massive transformation of the assistant we love,” referring to the new Alexa as a “super agent.”

It was evident that the firm intended to dispel myths that the existing Alexa lacked intelligence. In March 2023, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella labeled OpenAI’s ChatGPT “dumb as a rock” as it gained popularity.

However, following the occurrence, there was radio silence—or digital assistant silence, as the case may be. The traditional Alexa voice has never altered on the half-a-billion devices sold globally. There has been little news regarding the new generative AI Alexa, other for reports of a possible rollout later this year with a subscription payment.

According to interviews with more than a dozen former Alexa AI personnel, the explanation is that the company is plagued by internal dysfunction and technological hurdles that have repeatedly delayed the release of the new generative AI-powered Alexa. Former employees describe a firm falling behind Big Tech rivals like Google, Microsoft, and Meta in launching AI chatbots and agents, struggling to catch up.

The former employees highlight that the September 2023 demo was simply that: a demonstration. The new Alexa was not ready for a prime-time launch, and it still is not. According to former employees, the Alexa large language model (LLM), which is at the basis of the new Alexa and was positioned by Amazon to compete with OpenAI’s ChatGPT, is far from cutting-edge.

According to research experts that worked on the LLM, Amazon lacks sufficient data and access to the specialized computer chips required to run LLMs in order to compete with competitor initiatives at businesses such as OpenAI. According to former employees, Amazon has frequently prioritized constructing generative AI for its cloud computing unit, AWS, over developing the new Alexa.

Despite investing $4 billion in AI startup Anthropic, whose LLM model Claude is competitive with OpenAI’s, Amazon has yet to leverage the agreement to improve Alexa. According to former employees, Alexa’s teams have been unable to use Anthropic’s Claude model due to privacy concerns, as well as ego-driven internal politics within Amazon.


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