Artificial intelligence and machine learning have become a "horizontal enabling layer" influencing many of Amazon’s endeavors beyond the e-commerce giant’s Alexa virtual assistant, including its sire search and product recommendation capabilities and even its Prime Air drone delivery effort, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said at the Internet Association’s Gala2017 event, Geekwire reported on Saturday.
"It is things like improved search results. Improved product recommendations for customers. Improved forecasting for inventory management. Literally hundreds of other things beneath the surface," Bezos said, adding that Amazon is “determined” to make AI and machine learning capabilities accessible through its Amazon Web Services cloud unit to other companies that might not have the resources and expertise to develop those capabilities.
Aside from Bezos’ comments, AFTVnews published leaked images of the upcoming touchscreen-equipped Amazon Echo. The publication said the new device is code-named “Knight” and is expected to be made available sometime later this month.
When Bezos latches onto something, he seems to gets more maniacally excited than anyone seems possible of getting about anything. Among other things, he had this to say about AI and machine learning: “It is a renaissance, it is a golden age,” Bezos said. “We are solving problems with machine learning and artificial intelligence that were in the realm of science fiction for the last several decades. Natural language understanding, machine vision problems, it really is an amazing renaissance.”
It's not exactly surprising at this point to hear how ubiquitous these technologies are to the company that brought Alexa into the world. As we hear about more companies leveraging AI to upgrade search functionality and personalize product recommendations, it makes sense that Amazon has used these technologies in similar ways.
A little more surprising was the reference to Prime Air drone delivery, if only because that offering isn't yet a finished product, or at least not a commercially available one anyway. It remains to be seen exactly how Amazon Web Services evolves to provide AI and machine learning capabilities to other firms — if that becomes a package of core development capabilities available through the cloud or something that Amazon actually builds for other companies.
Finally, the images of the touchscreen Echo (or should we call it Knight?) are a bit of a revelation, mainly because it looks to be an entirely new design in Amazon's device family. While the design seems to have a retro look, that won't matter much if people are buying these devices for their AI brains and not their beauty.