Following the developments earlier this week, there’s now more reporting on just how Amazon’s recent (and ongoing) layoffs have impacted Alexa.
According to Business Insider, those hardest hit by the Amazon layoffs were Alexa teams working on AI systems, natural language understanding (NLU), and conversational abilities:
Amazon slashed headcount from multiple Alexa teams, including those working on making Alexa sound more like a human, acquire new skills and respond more creatively to questions.
In comparison, Google has spent the year working to make Assistant more natural as seen by how you can now look at a nearby Nest Hub Max and start a command, while some preset phrases (like “dim the lights”) don’t have to be prefaced by “Hey Google.” Both those capabilities were announced at I/O 2022 in May to make Assistant more natural.
An upcoming feature will let Assistant ignore “umm,” interruptions, natural pauses, and other self-corrections. At the moment, Google’s voice assistant is very literal and will just accept what it hears. Google expects to launch these natural conversation speech models in early 2023:
To make this happen, we’re building new, more powerful speech and language models that can understand the nuances of human speech — like when someone is pausing, but not finished speaking.