TechnologyAmazon Alexa’s big AI upgrade could require a new...

Amazon Alexa’s big AI upgrade could require a new subscription

It’s no secret that Amazon is busy overhauling Alexa with generative AI, but a new report from CNBC reveals that the company plans to make people pay extra for it. When Amazon launches its “more conversational” version of Alexa to the public later this year, the company will reportedly make users pay for a subscription separate from its $139 membership to Prime.

This isn’t the first we’ve heard of Amazon charging a subscription for Alexa. Last year, David Limp, Amazon’s former senior vice president of devices and services, told The Verge that Amazon “will end up charging something” for a version of Alexa that’s supercharged with AI. At the time, Limp said the existing version of Alexa would remain free to use.

Amazon declined to comment, pointing to the previous reports and statements. If you’d like to try it out yourself, Amazon is already testing elements of the upgraded Alexa in preview. You can enable it by telling your Echo device, “Alexa, let’s chat,” and Amazon will notify you when you can access the preview.

During the company’s device showcase last September, Amazon showed off the updated Alexa powered by a large language model (LLM). The change gives Alexa a better understanding of conversational phrases and allows it to carry out multiple requests from one command. In April, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy wrote in a letter to shareholders that Amazon plans on “an even more intelligent and capable Alexa.”

Since the launch of ChatGPT in late 2022, Amazon, Google, and Apple have all been racing to make their existing assistants more useful with generative AI that can include context, vary in tone, and maintain more natural-sounding conversations. Recent rumors point to a major AI update to Siri that we should hear more about during WWDC next month. Meanwhile, Google has already launched a new Gemini AI assistant that lets users replace the standard Google Assistant on their devices but lacks some existing features like routines and interpreter mode, which lets you translate conversations.

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