The current technical limitations of Amazon’s Alexa

After Amazon introduced its EchoDot devices / Alexa Smart assistant in India, Amazon Alexa team is making sure the developers get on board as soon as possible. Looking at my close circle, and tech enthusiasts, there are a couple of early adopters which have bought them, mostly because of its first to bring the voice-based devices, and then the price was irresistible. I paid Rs 2500 after using Amazon pay. The regular price is Rs 4999.

Amazon Alexa team had an event in Bangalore. This was later on summarized by Arvind Padmanabhan who shared a lot of insights, and takeaways from the event. He has explained his experience, and about how Alexa works, skill sets, and how developers can approach it. But what caught my attention was the limitations section.

As of now the Indian version of Alexa is limited by a large margin, compared to its US counterpart. It’s going to be slow expansion in India, and features like adding child account, another adult account, and things like that are missing. One thing which I do like about it is that it understands Hinglish or lets simply say it “Indian Accent” but its still limited.

Source: IED Forum

Here are the current limitations he has put forward. I have added my own comments to it.

Alexa cannot understand multiple accents:

This is strictly because of regional restrictions. I don’t blame this on Amazon, but you should know. When it is set to recognize Indian accent, any of your friend who talks US English or is from there will have trouble interacting.

Echo Devices don’t have GPS:

First of all, the device isn’t meant to be mobile. It doesn’t come with a battery pack, and it needs to stay in one location. It’s important because I have seen few services to take this into consideration.

When you configure your EchoDot, you need to enter the device location, along with PIN code. When saving the same, Alexa will suggest a more accurate address, and it has worked well for me. After making 2 attempts, Alexa figured out my exact location, and it wasn’t taking me outside the country.

That said, if you change address, make sure to update the same in your Settings.

Alexa has a long way to go when navigating the nuances of human communication:

Its close to perfect, but then you are going to face hiccups. Alexa is incapable of handling other expressions that have semantic similarity. It is still based on keywords, and it is still learning to match with similar words and interact with it.

Arvind Padmanabhan shares an example where when asked to reduce the volume, Alexa responded, “Sorry I don’t have any jokes about volume”.  Similarly, When asked for a random number between one and five, it replied, “Your random number is three”. You and I would probably just say “three”.

This has happened to me as well, and for many things. It can pick up voices from far-far away, but to correctly understand it, it will take a bit more time. As of now, Alexa works best with short direct questions. Ask something which is way too long, and it crumbles down with pink glow.

Multiple Voice Profiles missing for developers:

Available in the US profile, the multiple voice profile is missing from the Indian version. Before changing my region, there was an option where I can add another account. That way Alexa can pull details do shopping, from that profile. That what makes it a family device.

However, Voice profiles are not something that developers can use right now but this is highly desirable when many in the family are using a shared Echo device. A private enterprise skill cannot easily be shared across all employees of the company but this is something that has been used by hotel chains in the U.S

That said, I will soon be coming up with my own set of findings on Alexa, and Echo devices. If you havent bought it till now, you may want to wait for few more days.

A die-hard fan of Windows, Windows 10 Mobile, Windows Phone and Xbox, Loves to Do Video reviews on Windows Phone Apps, Games, Xbox Games, Xbox Tutorials.

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