Alexa, the stunning personal assistant, has had her share of foibles. Like the time a little girl asked her to purchase a dollhouse and some cookies, and the assistant complied without delay. The story would later be picked up by news broadcasters, and the young lady’s words repeated, only to have Alexa’s “sisters” in homes across the region unwittingly attempt to comply with their master’s requests. Of course, it’s not really her fault. Alexa is only doing what she’s programmed to do. She is part of the newest crop of artificial intelligence and, thankfully, she is getting a little smarter every day.
Virtual Personal Assistants are Rising in Popularity
Virtual personal assistants have existed for decades in one capacity or another. Even the BlackBerries of the 90s with their calendars and syncing helped us stay orderly and in touch. Then came the new wave of devices; virtual personal assistants that could talk and interact, including helpful creations like Google now as well as Apple’s Siri. Yet, despite her wit and apparent willingness to tell you a bedtime story or research information, even Siri didn’t have it all. Amazon’s Alexa, though, she just might.
“The inspiration for how we got started was the Star Trek computer,” said Steve Rabuchin, Alexa Voice Services VP. “We thought wouldn’t it be interesting if we could have a voice service in the cloud that could controls things around you and get information. We’re not 100 percent there today, but that’s how we got started.”
Users are Smitten with Alexa
Amazon is notoriously tight-lipped about sales figures involving Alexa, but a few companies have done independent research. For example, FieldAgent.net rounded up just over 300 Echo owners to see how they were using their devices. Not surprisingly, almost all reported using their Echos, Taps, and Dots for music and getting basic information, like TV listings and weather reports. That’s to be expected because those tasks are what people have historically used their personal assistants of any variety for. What’s interesting, is that Echo users are adapting to the new technology and using it to provide what other devices can’t. More than one-third are maintaining grocery lists and controlling smart home devices, while almost one-in-five manages their online shopping cart with Alexa’s help. While people naturally call out to Alexa when they’re short on baby supplies, pet food, and household goods, they’re also increasingly requesting her to purchase packaged foods, pre-made meals, and beverages. That’s not all. Users are really getting into Alexa Skills. The top 20 list includes things one would expect, such as FitBit, Domino’s, WeMo, and Uber, but it also has several favorites designed purely to provide information, including several financial-related Skills, a Twitter reader, and yes, a recipe suggester.
How We Shop and Obtain Information is Changing
Now more than ever, technology is reshaping how people shop and get information. Google recently acknowledged that voice searches now account for 20% of all queries. Although Siri has historically reigned supreme, her popularity seems to have hit a stalemate, while Alexa is growing stronger by the day. Reports indicate the monthly active user base grew by 326% last year, while Siri fans reduced by 15%. No doubt, this is due in part to the Amazon’s Prime service, which makes it possible to have goods arrive in just two days with no shipping fees.
Although Amazon won’t talk much about strategy, many suspect the company’s recent actions, such as launching a series of pop-up shops, is all about warming people up to the idea of tech in their lives, and less about making sales at this point. While getting in with Millennials and Generation Z users who grew up with this technology is relatively easy (more than one-third of Millennials will use a virtual assistant this year), Gen Xers and Boomers need more exposure to the tech before they’re willing to take it home. Even still, about one-fifth of the population is already using the technology, amounting to millions of users across the globe, and Amazon’s efforts ensure that number will grow exponentially.
Organic food company Annie’s Inc. President John Foraker thinks that Amazon could single-handedly end “food deserts,” or areas in which people have no access to nutritious food. “…when you combine this delivery infrastructure with Whole Foods’ 450+ stores and organic food supply chain,” he explained, “you enable the delivery of natural and organic foods to most places in the US in a matter of an hour or two.” He’s right, but the other caveat to this is that Amazon will soon be able to deliver groceries to just about anyone quickly. In the very near future, those wondering what to cook for dinner may be able to ask Alexa for recipe ideas and have the necessary ingredients delivered within hours, without ever having to leave the house or touch a digital device. Considering more than half of the younger generations keep their smartphones with them in the kitchen, per Google data, Alexa is the natural progression of the evolving technology, making it easier than ever to prepare a world-class meal on the fly.
Alexa Is Learning How To Cook
Virtual intelligent personal assistants are already here and they’re taking the world by storm. They make it easier to research and shop, saving time and improving lives. But, Alexa isn’t done by any means yet. By July 2017, the platform had passed over 15,000 skills, up from 10,000 in February of the same year. Recipe sites like AllRecipes have embraced this emerging technology, adding an Alexa Skill that is Echo Show-enabled. For retailers and food brands, Alexa offers a fresh way to connect with consumers. Always at the ready and prepared for your commands, Alexa will soon be able to help you find and select the perfect celebrity chef recipes for any occasion, all without ever having to fire up a computer or touch your smartphone. Imagine not having to stop what you’re doing to check a measurement, not worrying about spilling something on your smartphone while you cook, or not having to break concentration to wash your flour-covered hands to crack your cookbook. With 51% of Amazon Echo users keeping their device in the kitchen, it’s clear that always-connected consumers are excited at the prospect.