Amazon plans major overhaul of Alexa with AI integration

Amazon is planning a significant update to its Alexa service, aiming to enhance its capabilities with advanced conversational AI. The new version, known internally as “Banyan,” will introduce two service tiers, including a premium option available for around $5 per month.

According to sources reported by Reuters, “Banyan” will be the first major upgrade to Alexa since its launch in 2014. The updated service, called “Remarkable Alexa,” is expected to offer substantial improvements in functionality.

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Amazon aims to release the new Alexa by August. CEO Andy Jassy is personally invested in the project, which he hinted at in a recent shareholder letter, describing a “more intelligent and capable Alexa.” However, insiders caution that the specifics, including pricing and release dates, could change as Project Banyan progresses.

An Amazon spokeswoman stated, “We have already integrated generative AI into different components of Alexa and are working hard on implementation at scale—in the over half a billion ambient, Alexa-enabled devices already in homes around the world—to enable even more proactive, personal, and trusted assistance for our customers.”

Alexa, initially a project driven by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, was designed to mimic the voice computer from Star Trek. Despite its popularity for tasks like setting timers, checking the weather, and playing music, Alexa has struggled to turn a profit and drive e-commerce sales as intended.

Amazon’s recent restructuring and layoffs in late 2023 reflect the challenges faced by Alexa. The service faces stiff competition from advanced conversational AI developed by Google, Microsoft, and OpenAI.

Project Banyan represents Amazon’s ambitious effort to revitalize Alexa and strengthen its position in the market. As the tech giant prepares for this significant update, the world watches to see if “Remarkable Alexa” can deliver on its promise of enhanced, AI-driven capabilities.