Amazon announces Alexa AI – 5 things you need to know about the voice assistant

During a recent live event, Amazon revealed Alexa will be getting a major upgrade as the company plans on implementing a new large language model (LLM) into the tech assistant.

The tech giant is seeking to improve Alexa’s capabilities by making it “more intuitive, intelligent, and useful”. The LLM will allow it to behave similarly to a generative AI in order to provide real-time information as well as understand nuances in speech. Amazon says its developers sought to make the user experience less robotic.

There is a lot to the Alexa update besides the LLM, as it will also be receiving a lot of features. Below is a list of the five things you absolutely need to know about Alexa’s future.

1. Natural conversations

In what may be the most impactful change, Amazon is making a number of improvements to Alexa’s voice in an effort to make it sound more fluid. It will lack the robotic intonation people are familiar with. 

You can listen to the huge difference in quality on the company’s Soundcloud page. The first sample showcases the voice Alexa has had for the past decade or so since it first launched. The second clip is what it’ll sound like next year when the update launches. You can hear the robot voice enunciate a lot better, with more apparent emotion behind.

2. Understanding context

Having an AI that understands context is important because it makes the process of issuing commands easier. Moving forward, Alexa will be able to better understand  nuances in speech. It will know what you’re talking about even if you don’t provide every minute detail. 

Users can issue vague commands – like saying “Alexa, I’m cold” to have the assistant turn up the heat in your house. Or you can tell the AI it’s too bright in the room and it will automatically dim the lights only in that specific room.

3. Improved smart home control

In the same vein of understanding context, “Alexa will be able to process multiple smart home requests.” You can create routines at specific times of the day plus you won’t need a smartphone to configure them. It can all be done on the fly. 

You can command the assistant to turn off the lights, lower the blinds in the house, and tell the kids to get ready for bed at 9 pm. It will perform those steps in that order, on the dot. Users also won’t need to repeat Alexa’s name over and over for every little command.

Amazon Alexa smart home control

(Image credit: Amazon)

4. New accessibility features 

Amazon will be introducing a variety of accessibility features for customers who have “hearing, speech, or mobility disabilities.” The one that caught our interest was Eye Gaze, allowing people to perform a series of pre-set actions just by look at their device. Actions include playing music or sending messages to contacts. Eye Gaze will, however, be limited to Fire Max 11 tablets in the US, UK, Germany, and Japan at launch.

There is also Call Translation, which, as the name suggests, will translate languages in audio and video calls in real-time. In addition to acting as an interpreter, this tool is said to help deaf people “communicate remotely more easily.” This feature will be available to Echo Show and Alexa app users across eight countries (the US, Mexico, and the UK just to mention a few) in 10 languages, including English, Spanish, and German.

5. Content creation

Since the new Alexa will operate on LLM technology, it will be capable of light content creation via skills. 

Through the Character.AI tool, users can engage in “human-like voice conversations with [over] than 25 unique Characters.” You can chat with specific archetypes, from a fitness coach to famous people like Albert Einstein. 

Music production will be possible, too, via Splash. Through voice commands, Splash can create a track according to your specifications. You can then customize the song further by adding a vocal track or by changing genres.

It’s unknown exactly when the Alexa upgrade will launch. Amazon says everything you see here and more will come out in 2024. We have reached out for clarification and will update this story if we learn anything new.

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Amazon has a big problem as AI-generated books flood Kindle Unlimited

Along with the impressive demonstrations and sounds of alarm that have come with the dawn of generative-text chatbots, we’re also now seeing some of the more questionable and perhaps less desirable outcomes starting to materialize. 

Authors and several news outlets have recently reported a significant uptick in AI-generated books showing up in multiple best-seller lists, many seemingly sounding like nonsense. 

Self-publishing, such as via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Program, has become a way for many genuine authors to bring their work to the public and build a following without the help of a large publisher. Because these self-publishing capabilities are purposely easy to sign up for, it seems anyone can generate endless AI-written books and upload them to be sold on Amazon’s eBook store and make them available for reading via Kindle Unlimited. 

Recently, an indie author, Caitlyn Lynch, tweeted about noticing that only 19 of the best sellers in the Teen & Young Adult Contemporary Romance eBooks top 100 chart on Amazon were real, legit books. The rest were nonsensical and incoherent, and seemingly AI-generated. 

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The Motherload website later looked into dozens of books on the platform and saw that a few days after Lynch’s tweets, the AI books had vanished from the best-seller lists, probably removed by Amazon. 

They were, however, still available for purchase, and had enjoyed a significant amount of visibility before vanishing. Also, as Lynch very understandably speculates, the mass uploading of AI-generated books could be used to facilitate click-farming, where 'bots' click through a book automatically, generating royalties from Amazon Kindle Unlimited, which pays authors by the amount of pages that are read in an ebook. So, it doesn’t matter that these books disappear. The people running such a scheme could just upload as many as they like to replace the removed ones. 

A major concern quickly emerges both for authors and readers – most of us readers are seeking out books that, at least for now, are written by human authors, and this makes it harder to find those kinds of books. Lynch, elaborating on her views in a Twitter thread, emphasized that this “will … be the death knell for Kindle Unlimited” if Amazon cannot contain this.  

Amazon Warehouse

(Image credit: Amazon)

What is Amazon doing about it?

Motherboard reached out to Amazon and received a reply that stated that it had “clear guidelines” for which books can be listed for sale and would investigate when concerns are raised in order to protect both readers and authors. It didn’t explicitly state that it was making an effort specifically to address the apparent spam-like persistent uploading of nonsensical and incoherent AI-generated books. It’s worth Amazon taking an active approach to rectify this issue in order to reassure readers that it’s worth continuing to support authors via ebook sales and page views (which result in royalties for authors on Kindle Unlimited), and reassure authors that it’s worth putting their work on sale on Amazon. 

We’ve also contacted Amazon to find out what it is doing about this, and we’ll update this story when we hear back.

AI-generated and assisted books aren’t totally new, and followed quite quickly after the debut of text-generator and image-generator Artificial Intelligence tools such as ChatGPT and Midjourney. These books were already contentious, as many artists and authors felt that such generated books denigrated the work it takes to put together, write, and publish a book. 

Furthermore, AI generators work by scraping huge amounts of visual and text content from the internet – some of which the creators of this content never consented to. 

Mass-flooding of best-seller lists with nonsensical books will only intensify these concerns of quality control and authenticity. It’s not clear why there is such a boom in AI-generated books appearing in best-seller lists, but many speculate that it’s due to bot-farming, where large amounts of books are automatically generated and published. In my opinion, if this is the case then it’s definitely up to Amazon to address this problem, as authors and readers don’t have the technical capabilities to counteract such operations.

AI Danger

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Not just about plagiarism

Chris Cowell, a software developer, talked to the Washington Post about such an instance where an AI had plagiarized his work, which was sold on Amazon. AI is still taking work from human authors, which raises concerns of plagiarism and copyright infringement, but there’s also the matter of AI text generators spitting out misinformation. 

That can then lead to one AI-written book using text from another AI-written book, without any fact-checking, and (especially in the instance of non-fiction books), a worrying feedback loop is created that spreads misinformation and makes it hard to pin down the origin of statements. 

For now, maybe Amazon will optimize its process of removing AI-generated nonsensical content as it appears, but greater efforts are needed. As of May 2023, Amazon’s Kindle Publishing didn’t require sellers to disclose if the book had been written (or illustrated) with the help of AI generators such as ChatGPT or Midjourney.

There's also a big problem that continues to plague Amazon and other online marketplaces for a multitude of products, and books are no exception: fake reviews. Text AI generators make this worse by making it easier to flood a review section both in the content and quantity. With Prime Day coming up, make sure you check out our guide on how to spot fake reviews on Amazon.

Unfortunately, along with all the positive new things that are possible with AI generators, inevitably, they can also be misused. Hopefully, Amazon acknowledges the growing concerns coming from both authors and readers, and makes efforts that help set a precedent for protecting human-created works – and their audiences.

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Amazon says even AI isn’t powerful enough to stop fake reviews

Amazon has renewed its war on fake reviews by developing new AI-powered tools to help tackle the problem, but the retail giant admits they aren't enough to solve the issue on their own.

In a new blog post, Dharmesh Mehta, who's Amazon's VP of Worldwide Selling Partner Services, writes “we must work together to stop the fake review brokers that are the source of most fake reviews”, calling on “private sector, consumer groups, and governments” to work together to stop the brokers.

What are these so-called 'fake review brokers'? Amazon says the brokers have become an industry in recent years, and have “evolved in an attempt to evade detection”. They work by approaching average consumers though websites, social media or encrypted messaging services and getting to them write fake reviews “in exchange for money, free products, or other incentives”.

Amazon says it's using increasingly sophisticated AI tools and machine learning to stem the tide. These fraud-detection programs apparently analyze thousands of data points, including sign-in activity and review history, to help spot fake reviews. The figures involved are pretty staggering; Amazon says that last year it blocked over 200 million suspected fake reviews in 2022, and sued over 10,000 Facebook group administrators. 

But Amazon's financial might and its increasingly sophisticated AI tools seemingly aren't enough to stop fake reviews. The retail giant says that because much of the misconduct happens outside of Amazon’s store “it can be more challenging to detect, prevent, and enforce these bad actors if we are acting alone”.

A hand holding an iPhone showing Amazon reviews

(Image credit: Amazon)

So Amazon has made a three-point plan to get some extra help. Firstly, it wants there to be more cross-industry sharing about fake review brokers and their various tactics and techniques. Secondly, it wants governments and regulators to use their authority more to take action against bad actors. 

And lastly, in a veiled nudge at Meta and other social media giants, it's asked that “all sites that could be used to facilitate this illicit activity should have robust notice and takedown processes”. Amazon wants to work with “these companies” (read Facebook, WhatsApp, Signal and more) to help improve their detection methods.

Whether or not these three steps are realistic remains to be seen, but the message from Amazon is clear – it doesn't think it can stem the tide of fake reviews on its own, and that's a problem for all of us. Until that improves, it's more important than ever to follow advice on how to spot fake Amazon reviews during Prime Day and other big shopping events.

How to spot fake Amazon reviews

A laptop screen on an orange background showing an Amazon review in the website ReviewMeta

Sites like ReviewMeta (above) can help you weed out suspicious reviews from an Amazon product’s rating (Image credit: Future)

We've been highlighting the problem of fake Amazon reviews for over a decade, and it's clear that the issue has become a game of whack-a-mole – while Amazon's tools have improved, the retail giant admits that the “tactics of fake review brokers have also evolved in an attempt to try to evade detection”.

This is a big problem for the average online shopper – in the UK, the consumer group Which? says that around one in seven reviews are fake. And that means you can be misled into buying poor-quality products.

Mehta's blog post is a reminder than even the world's biggest tech giants, and the latest AI technology, aren't powerful enough to stop fake reviews. And that means we all need to be increasingly savvy when shopping online.

As our in-depth guide to spotting fake Amazon reviews highlights, there are some simple red flags to look out for in product reviewers, including “overly promotional language, repeated reviews, and reviews for an entirely different product”. 

But there are also handy third-party tools like ReviewMeta and FakeSpot (which was recently bought by the Firefox owner Mozilla) that can help you use AI to detect fake reviews and scams. These allow you paste in Amazon product URLs to get an analysis of the reviews or use Chrome extensions for a quick check.

While Amazon's three-point call-out for outside help is understandable, recent history suggests that progress is going to be slow – which means we'll all need to remain on guard when doing our online shopping, particularly during big events like Amazon Prime Day 2023.

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Wix and Amazon team up to make online delivery even faster

Top website builder Wix has upgraded its SaaS platform with the integration of Amazon’s Multi-Channel Fulfillment (MCF) for ecommerce merchants to deliver orders within one to two days.

Using Amazon’s order fulfillment services, the redeveloped platform will now allow Wix ecommerce merchants in the US to download the Amazon MCF app to their Wix store and hopefully lower fulfilment costs.

Wix merchants will also be able to automatically see shipping speed options and real-time delivery dates from Amazon.

Wix Multi-Channel Fulfillment 

Wix says the integration has also been introduced to reduce the complexities ecommerce website owners face fulfilling orders on their own.

“We’re constantly improving our platform to accommodate rising needs of business owners and to help them increase their Gross Payment Volume (GPV),” said Arik Perez, Head of Wix ecommerce.

“Today, seamless shipping and delivery are essential for businesses to succeed. In partnering with Amazon MCF, Wix merchants can be assured that top-of-the-line packing, handling and fast shipping is at their fingertips, which ultimately boosts the potential growth of their business.” 

Some of the other key benefits for Wix ecommerce merchants using the Amazon MCF app include fulfilling orders 24/7 with fast shipping, leveraging Amazon MCF’s fulfillment network with over 200 fulfillment centers and automatic inventory placement.

“We’re continually listening to merchants and working backwards from their needs to develop solutions that help them delight more customers,” said Gopal Pillai, Vice President of Amazon Fulfillment and Distribution Solutions.

“The new Multi-Channel Fulfillment app easily integrates with Wix stores to help merchants make critical improvements to their customer experience, such as providing shoppers accurate delivery dates at checkout, automatic tracking emails, and on-time, low-cost delivery.

“With Multi-Channel Fulfillment, we make fulfilment so easy and seamless that merchants can focus more time on the growth and success of their business.”

Available now, the integration with Amazon’s MCF network will mean that Wix merchants will pay for fulfilment and storage, but not for commitment or app installation.

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Wix and Amazon team up to make online delivery even faster

Top website builder Wix has upgraded its SaaS platform with the integration of Amazon’s Multi-Channel Fulfillment (MCF) for ecommerce merchants to deliver orders within one to two days.

Using Amazon’s order fulfillment services, the redeveloped platform will now allow Wix ecommerce merchants in the US to download the Amazon MCF app to their Wix store and hopefully lower fulfilment costs.

Wix merchants will also be able to automatically see shipping speed options and real-time delivery dates from Amazon.

Wix Multi-Channel Fulfillment 

Wix says the integration has also been introduced to reduce the complexities ecommerce website owners face fulfilling orders on their own.

“We’re constantly improving our platform to accommodate rising needs of business owners and to help them increase their Gross Payment Volume (GPV),” said Arik Perez, Head of Wix ecommerce.

“Today, seamless shipping and delivery are essential for businesses to succeed. In partnering with Amazon MCF, Wix merchants can be assured that top-of-the-line packing, handling and fast shipping is at their fingertips, which ultimately boosts the potential growth of their business.” 

Some of the other key benefits for Wix ecommerce merchants using the Amazon MCF app include fulfilling orders 24/7 with fast shipping, leveraging Amazon MCF’s fulfillment network with over 200 fulfillment centers and automatic inventory placement.

“We’re continually listening to merchants and working backwards from their needs to develop solutions that help them delight more customers,” said Gopal Pillai, Vice President of Amazon Fulfillment and Distribution Solutions.

“The new Multi-Channel Fulfillment app easily integrates with Wix stores to help merchants make critical improvements to their customer experience, such as providing shoppers accurate delivery dates at checkout, automatic tracking emails, and on-time, low-cost delivery.

“With Multi-Channel Fulfillment, we make fulfilment so easy and seamless that merchants can focus more time on the growth and success of their business.”

Available now, the integration with Amazon’s MCF network will mean that Wix merchants will pay for fulfilment and storage, but not for commitment or app installation.

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The top-rated Wyze home security camera drops to a record-low price at Amazon

Beef up your home security with this fantastic deal that we've just spotted at Amazon. For a limited time, you can get the top-rated Wyze Cam Spotlight on sale for just $ 39.77 (was $ 52.96). That's the lowest price we've ever seen and a fantastic deal for an outdoor smart security camera.

Today's best home security camera deal

Wyze Cam Spotlight: $ 52.96 $ 39.77 at Amazon
Save $ 13.19 –
We’ve just spotted the top-rated Wyze Cam Spotlight on sale for a record-low price of $ 39.77. The weather-resistant outdoor security camera features a spotlight that automatically comes on when motion is detected and includes two-way audio, a siren, and night vision.

The top-rated Wyze Cam is an outdoor security camera that features a spotlight. This automatically comes on when motion is detected and sends alerts to your phone through the compatible app. The weather-resistant camera includes two-way audio so you can hear and speak with visitors, and works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for hands-free control. You're also getting night vision and a siren button that you can use to scare off unwanted guests.

The Wyze Cam is rarely discounted, and we don't know how long Amazon will have the home security camera at this price, so we'd snap up this deal now before it's too late.

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You can find more home security sales with the best cheap home security camera deals that are currently available.

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Amazon was the big winner from 2021’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales

If you bought something on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, maybe a little Christmas present, you definitely weren't alone in 2021. Millions of people took advantage of the sales bonanza this year, receiving big deals on loads of things in return. 

To help make sense of how huge the occasions are, TechRadar Pro commissioned a survey one OnePulse, which asked 500 respondents some questions about the festivities. 

Amazon is the winner and it's not even close

According to our survey, carried out by OnePulse, of the 500 respondents a whopping 34.6% bought items from Amazon, the largest group, followed by those who did not participate (33.4%), bought from a high street retailer (14.6%), or bought from Wish, Aliexpress, Shein, or elsewhere (17.4%). 

In terms of sourcing the deals, respondents were more divided: 29% went straight to the store (on or offline); 22.6% used Google; 11% used promotional emails; 8.4% used WhatsApp; 6.4% used Facebook and/or Twitter; and the remaining 22.4% did something else entirely. 

But were all of the deals worth it? 30.6% were either very or somewhat happy; 30.4% were ambivalent; 22.4% were either very or somewhat unhappy; and 16.6% had no opinion at all. 

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