After making redundancies in its video games branch, Amazon will cut the workforce in its Alexa division. If we are to believe the internal email sent on November 17, 2023 and consulted by the American media GeekWirthe social plan should concern several hundred employees spread across the United States, Canada and India. A spokesperson confirmed this figure to Engadgetand specified that Amazon would try, as far as possible, to find positions within the company for the people concerned.
Shifting spending towards generative AI
“We’re shifting some of our efforts to better align with our business priorities and what we know is most important to customers – which includes maximizing our resources on generative AI. These developments lead us to abandon certain initiatives, which results in the elimination of several hundred positions.“, justified Daniel Bausch, Amazon vice president in charge of Alexa and Fire TV in the email.
Alexa must indeed reinvent herself if she does not want to die, just like Siri and the other assistants who have become outdated with the arrival of ChatGPT. In September, the e-commerce giant announced that it was preparing for a significant upgrade of its voice assistant aimed at also equipping it with generative AI.
An LLM optimized for voice
Alexa should soon be powered by a large language model (LLM) specially built for it and optimized for voice. The group claimed this will allow them to start a conversation without needing to constantly be called by their first name and carry out more complex requests like getting the house ready for bed every weeknight at 9 p.m. by toning down the lights and locking the doors.
A new feature called “Let’s chat” should also offer Alexa users the possibility of having a longer conversation with the voice assistant because the latter will be able to maintain the context of the discussion.
Last chance restructuring
With these layoffs and the transition to generative AI, Amazon surely hopes to redress the financial situation of its “devices and services” branch, which includes the group’s voice assistant and other connected products and which, for the moment, costs more expensive than it brings in. It would have recorded a loss of $10 billion in 2022…
To make matters worse, Amazon was ordered on November 8 to pay $46.7 million in damages by the Delaware federal court, which ruled that the virtual assistant had infringed patents related to voice recognition and to natural language processing.