A teaser for a Super Bowl commercial dropped recently starring Jeff Bezos, and it's a sign of things to come. We might not know for sure what those "things" are specifically, but let's just say AI and technology is about to get personal.
The iconic and ubiquitous voicebot, so common that it now deserves a major Super Bowl commercial starring the richest man in the world. No one knows for sure, but the teaser hints at a possible replacement for Alexa (at least, for her voice) when she gets sick.
You can watch the teaser below:
So what does it mean?
In the ad, Bezos appears worried.
"How is that even possible?" he says.
"We have the replacements ready, just say the word," says an engineer.
The full commercial will probably cut to people pretending to be Alexa, perhaps someone like Alec Baldwin or a football star. It will likely hit home, in a humorous way, that Alexa can do things like remind you about an appointment, solve math problems, and report on the Super Bowl score if you are boycotting it because your favorite team lost in the playoffs.
But there might be another underlying message. What if you want to have a voicebot that's more personal? It's a total guess on my part, but 2018 will likely be the year Alexa starts relating to us in a more personal way. Here's an example of what that could mean.
Last night, I was watching the Boston Celtics beat up on the Denver Nuggets. (It turned into a close game eventually.) I asked the Assistant bot on the Google Home speaker to tell me the record for the Nuggets. After relaying the info, the bot then said it was going to send more info to my phone. This is fairly minor personalization, and the bot sent the info to a Google Pixel 2 I'm not even using anymore, but the point is--the bot sent info to my phone. The bot recognized me. Someday, bots will know which phone we use, which car we drive, the type of furnace in our house, and much more.
With Alexa, this could mean more than just Alec Baldwin or some other star talking to us. When the teaser talks about "replacements" it probably means in a tongue-in-cheek way and that Alexa's voice is not going away anytime soon, but I have another theory. It's maybe a hint that we could change more settings on the bot, use a different voice, maybe add an accent, or choose someone with a little more sarcasm or a bigger personality.
Someday, a bot might be ours alone. That's a cool concept, because right now Alexa and every other voicebot is essentially just a generic digital butler that works the same for every user. I believe that will change soon, becoming more like my Alexa, and your Alexa, and the Alexa for the guy in sales, and the Google Home bot for your aunt across town.
These bots will be more like digital avatars at that point. My avatar will know to shut my garage door at night at the right time based on machine learning algorithms, and will read my emails to me, and send you an email on its own, and maybe know when I'm in the kitchen and suggest a thin crust pizza recipe (because that's my favorite type of food).
Reading into a teaser too much? Not really. The entire concept hinges on the fact that we all know Alexa by now. Who she will become in 2018--that's the exciting part.