Amazon’s smart virtual assistant, Alexa, now has 7,000 skills – a 7X increase in as many months.
This is according to an announcement made by Mike George, Amazon’s vice president of Echo, Alexa and app store, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week.
He said, “We now today have over 7,000 custom skills that third party developers have built to enhance Alexa. And we have a rich pipeline of Alexa voice service equipment that will be released over the coming months.”
In September, Amazon said Alexa had surpassed 3,000 skills, tripling June’s figure. In December, that number was up to 5,400 skills, according to GeekWire.
Alexa’s skills include the ability to schedule a ride from Lyft, order a pizza for delivery, or find a lost phone.
Alexa Voice Service lets manufacturers integrate Alexa into their products and developers are encouraged build skills for Alexa.
Alexa, what’s an annuity?
Insurance company Aviva this week claimed to be the first UK insurer to launch an Alexa Skill on Amazon’s Echo. The first stage for Aviva is about demystifying insurance terms – you can ask Alexa, “What is an annuity?”, “What is Insurance Premium Tax?”
Amazon Echo launched in the UK in October 2016 so Aviva says this was a “very rapid development” and that this is just a first step:
“Voice interaction is going to be the future for a lot of digital interactions, we think…It’s a new way for customers to interact with us at Aviva.”
Training a digital agent
According to recent research by Gartner, by 2019, 20 percent of smartphone interactions will be with virtual PAs, driven by the growth of conversational commerce, voice and gesture control.
The shift to digital agents with AI-driven ‘brains’ creates a number of challenges and opportunities for communications service providers. A TM Forum proof-of-concept Catalyst team, championed by Globe Telecom, is working together to tackle these. Amdocs, Huawei and Infosys are all participants.
The team’s aim is to “explore the use of cognitive computing or artificial intelligence technologies, such as natural language processing and machine learning, to create the next generation of customer care services.”
The initiative is looking at creating a digital agent that understands natural human voices and combines artificial intelligence, machine learning and the latest customer relationship management (CRM) techniques to produce answers. Not only does this streamline how each query from a customer is handled, but the machine learning element means that the more queries it deals with, the greater its knowledge base. The team is also exploring how artificial intelligence and machine learning can augment – rather than replace – the human workforce.
At TM Forum Live! Asia in Singapore last month, the Catalyst was awarded the Best in Show prize.