Amazon Alexa users have become used to barking commands at compatible devices, like the Amazon Echo or Dot. And for now, Alexa is just a voice that talks back to you. However, Rohit Prasad, head scientist of Amazon’s Alexa artificial intelligence group, made comments that have led some to believe that she may one day be unleashed as a robot. Prasad, while discussing the reasons for the limitations that users find with Alexa, noted that “The only way to make smart assistants really smart is to give it eyes and let it explore the world.” According to MIT Technology Review, Prasad didn’t comment further on rumors that Amazon is building a home robot. The scientist’s comments could just be an offhand observation or a hint at what may be coming, but for now, it’s all pure speculation, noted The Daily Mail.
As popularity of Alexa increases, it also comes with stories of malfunctions along with “creepy” comments. According to CNBC, the assistant once told someone to “Kill your foster parents,” which was reportedly a result of a $500,000 contest among computer science students to generate “more impressive” chatbots, noted The Sun. In addition, there was a short period of time when users heard a “creepy” and seemingly random laughter from their Alexa devices, reported CNBC.
With all that being said, many have long imagined a future with robot assistants. Rosie from The Jetsons is a good example, and Roomba vacuums have been a hit among some folks after its debut in 2002. And while the potential of Alexa one day being integrated into a robot body is still speculation, it would certainly be a major step in the world of robotics.
But Alexa’s road to success hasn’t been perfect. In April 2018, Forbes noted that Alexa was hacked by Checkmarx to record everything it hears without the users’ knowledge. A month later, USA Today released a way for consumers to check all of the recordings being housed in their Alexa-enabled devices.
And while users are likely to have to wait a while to hear potential updates about an Alexa robot, the company is moving forward with new applications of the AI assistant. Amazon’s senior vice president for devices and services, Dave Limp, told the audience at The New York Times‘ New Work Summit a week ago that “We started in the home; we’re not adding the car.”
“At least once a week, often every day, I get an email from somebody who just says that the Echo has changed their lives. They might not have all their mobility, they might be a little elderly and they find companionship with Alexa, they find the ability to interact in a way they couldn’t before.”