Seattle BMW will develop its next voice assistant software based on Amazon’s Alexa technology. It should be available in the first vehicles within the next two years, as the companies announced on Wednesday. The Munich-based carmaker relies on Amazon’s Alexa Custom Assistant solution, which allows various companies to develop their own voice assistants based on Alexa.
At its annual new Products event, Amazon presented models of its Echo speaker series as well as other functions for the Astro household robot presented last autumn.
The device is a kind of tablet on wheels with a camera and Alexa software. Among other things, the robot can be trained in the future to point out open windows and doors on its way through the household. By linking to Amazon’s Ring security technology, Astro can also “check” if the cameras report an intruder.
The Astro robots are currently only available to selected users in the USA. But Amazon has already received hundreds of thousands of inquiries from interested parties, and there are bottlenecks in production, said Amazon device chief Dave Limp.
Although the device had already been presented a year ago, it is the “most advanced household robot I know,” he stressed. At the same time, there are still problems with navigation in some situations, for example in rooms with large mirrors from floor to ceiling.
Amazon also provides a software interface for developers to make Astro more useful. Limp is convinced that in a few years at least one robot of some kind will be in use in every household and wants to play a pioneering role with Amazon’s devices. The group is currently buying the robot vacuum cleaner specialist iRobot under his direction.
Amazon device CEO Dave Limp: Personalization is not an easy task
Other innovations include that Alexa should become smarter and create routines based on repetitions in the behavior of the users themselves. For example, if you regularly set the alarm clock to a certain time on fixed days, the software will suggest that you do this automatically.
“When personalization actually works, it works like magic,” Limp said. At the same time, this is not an easy task – this is how you sometimes get inexplicable purchase recommendations on Amazon’s trading platform even after 25 years of experience.
Overall, Amazon wants to ensure that networked technology for the home remains useful for a longer time through software updates and does not have to be replaced. “What worries me in general is that as an industry we spend a lot of time and money trying to convince consumers that they need to upgrade their technology every one or two years,” Limp said.