Alexa is pretty smart. But she's not always the most acute listener. Amazon's virtual assistant often gets it wrong. 

Case in point: Once I asked Alexa to play beach sounds to help my young nephew fall asleep. She misunderstood. Beach sounds like another word. Expletive-laden rap music began playing.

"Off Alexa! No! Stop! Sleep!" I hissed sternly, trying every word I could think of to shut her up.

Alexa's new human-like skill. 

What if Alexa could tell if you were frustrated and course correct? That's exactly the feature Amazon will start testing, the company just announced at its September Devices Event. Alexa will soon have "frustration detection." It detects when Alexa gets your requests wrong, then tries to get it right. Amazon will start testing the feature with music requests in 2020, then roll it out to other tasks gradually. 

Just say, "No, Alexa."

The feature will only be turned on for music requests to start. If Alexa plays the wrong song (e.g., anything that is definitely not beach sounds), you can say, "No, Alexa." She'll apologize and ask you to clarify.

Here's how Amazon described the feature on their blog:

"As customers continue to use Alexa more often, they want her to be more conversational and can get frustrated when Alexa gets something wrong. To help with this, we developed a deep learning model to detect when customers are frustrated, not with the world around them, but with Alexa. And when she recognizes you're frustrated with her, Alexa can now try to adjust, just like you or I would do."

How the technology works.

Medium's tech publication OneZero spoke with Rohit Prasad, Alexa's chief scientist, about the new frustration detection feature. It analyzes not only your words, but also your tone of voice. 

Here's an oversimplified version of how the technology works: Algorithm one analyzes your words. It looks out for words that are associated with frustration, such as "no." Algorithm two analyzes your tone of voice. Algorithm three analyzes their combined data, then decides if you are satisfied or not with the song Alexa played. If it deems you're unsatisfied, Alexa apologizes and asks you to clarify.

Published on: Sep 28, 2019
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