Fast talker: Alexa may offer speedier answers with Amazon-made AI chips

February 13, 2018

Amazon wants to cut the lag time between your asking Alexa a question and the virtual assistant giving you an answer. According to a report by The Information, the online retailer is developing its own artificial intelligence chips to be used in Echo devices and other hardware. If successfully created and deployed, these AI chips would allow more voice-based requests to be processed on-device rather than going to the cloud.

Currently, Alexa needs to contact the cloud to interpret commands. That’s why there’s a short delay after you ask the virtual assistant a question—it needs to analyze the command and gather an answer with help from the cloud. A dedicated AI chip in a device like an Echo would allow Alexa to process certain requests more quickly, decreasing the delay that lies in between your question and Alexa’s answer. While complex inquiries will likely still be handled with help from the cloud, more simple commands could be processed all on the device itself.

Amazon reportedly has 450 people with chip knowledge on staff now, many of which came via recent acquisitions. The company bought the Israeli chipmaker Annapurna Labs in 2015 for $350 million and the security camera company Blink for a reported $90 million at the end of 2017. It’s believed that Amazon bought Blink specifically for its low-energy chip expertise; the company’s smart home security cameras use these chips to extend the battery life of its camera modules to at least two years.

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