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Amazon could launch Alexa Plus this year - but it's likely to cost you

 Alexa.
Alexa.

Amazon is reportedly working on an upgraded and AI-powered version of its ubiquitous Alexa personal assistant – and you might have to pay for it.

At its Device and Services event in September, Amazon announced that the Alexa voice assistant will be getting new generative AI upgrades to improve its communication abilities.

Business Insider reports that the upgraded version of Alexa is referred to internally as ‘Remarkable Alexa’, and will be launched as ‘Alexa Plus’ – suggesting that it will be subscription-based. The company is said to be eyeing June 30 as the launch date for the service.

The report comes as other companies begin to roll out AI integrations. Microsoft revealed a subscription service to its AI assistant Copilot, which is set to be integrated into Windows 11 keyboards. And Google is blending two voice assistant services into one, with Assistant with Bard expected to arrive this year.

Amazon hasn’t commented on the report, and we don’t have any information on how much a subscription might cost, or how it will be rolled out to Alexa devices.

According to Business Insider, the upgraded version of Alexa will have exclusive AI features, allowing you to hold more natural conversations with the assistant, similar to ChatGPT, and offering a more personalized experience – for example, Tom's Guide reports that Alexa Plus will have the ability to distinguish between pauses in speech and the speaker completing a request.

Amazon Echo Dot on dresser
Amazon Echo Dot on dresser

However, right now Alexa Plus is said to be far from the finished product.  The report says it’s currently being tested by 15,000 people, and these trials have identified several flaws in Amazon’s new take on the voice assistance service.

For one thing, the quality of Alexa Plus’ voice recognition may not be living up to expectations. While the voice assistant offers more personalized conversations, its responses are reportedly deflective and include inaccurate information, problems that could mean a delayed launch.

These issues are said to be connected to disagreements over the direction of the Alexa upgrade, with several people who developed the original Alexa, referred to internally as ‘Classic Alexa’, reportedly insisting that their work is incorporated into the upgrade.

According to Business Insider, the key to bringing the new AI features to Alexa Plus is a new large language model (LLM) codenamed Olympus, and the requirement to combine old and new Alexa technologies is “resulting in a more bloated technology stack while creating internal politics for the team”.

Tech complexities aside, some within Amazon are said to have raised questions about charging for Alexa Plus, noting that Amazon subscribers who are already paying for services such as Amazon Music may not want to pay extra for the upgraded voice assistant.

Amazon recently launched a range of new generative AI apps for Alexa, including a chatbot from Character.ai, which allows you to have conversations with various characters and personas, and Splash Music, which lets you create your music tracks using voice assistant.

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