Amazon Boosts Alexa’s AI Chops, Launches Beta of Alexa Talks

Amazon has released the beta version of Alexa Conversations and a host of other tools for developers this week, which are intended to enhance the intelligence of the Alexa virtual assistant.
Alexa Conversations, a deep learning-based dialog management system, is designed to automatically generate synthetic training data from sample dialogs. Alexa Conversations was released as a preview at the Amazon re:Mars conference last year in Las Vegas. It combines an AI-driven dialog manger with an advanced dialog simulator engine that automatically generates synthetic learning data.
Developers provide APIs and annotated samples dialogs. These dialogs include prompts that they want Alexa use to communicate with end users and the actions they expect customers take. This information is used by Alexa Conversations to generate dialog flows and variations. It also helps to understand the many possible paths that the dialogs might take.
Drew Meyer, the head of Amazon’s product marketing team for AI, Robotics and Space explained in a blog post how Alexa Conversations was designed to allow developers to quickly create conversations that are more conversational and not force them into a strict pattern or sequential workflow.
He wrote that developers used to script every possible turn, build an interaction model, manage dialog rules, and analyze logs to test and iterate.
For example, the Atom Tickets movie tickets skill required 5,500 lines of code as well as nearly 800 training examples. Meyer stated that the app was built with Alexa Conversations and shrank by nearly 70% to 1,700 lines code. It also required only 13 customer dialog samples.
Meyer explained that Alexa Conversations models the dialog path using dialog samples provided by the developer. This is done using a deep, continuous neural network. This neural network analyzes all of the session’s dialog history and predicts the best next action or step in the dialogue. This improves accuracy and reduces your design and code effort.
Amazon announced 31 new features at its Alexa Live voice developer conference. These include an API that allows you to use Web technologies to create gaming apps for Alexa devices. There’s also an API that allows you to use Web technologies to build apps for Alexa devices. Also, a preview service called Alexa for Apps was released that allows Alexa apps to trigger actions within your smartphone apps.