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Alexa Live 2021 key takeaways

On 22 July, Alexa Live 2021 event was held by Amazon where more than 50 features were introduced to developers.

In Technology

Written by : Jason Low

Posted on 26/07/2021

On 22 July, Alexa Live 2021 event was held by Amazon where more than 50 features were introduced to developers. At the event, Amazon continued to stress how important the developer community is to Alexa’s development. Amazon should be recognized for its rigorous effort in creating different components added onto Alexa, which are being updated and expanded further, giving confidence to developers and partners that Amazon will stay committed to growing its voice platform.

Third-party developers, and content and service providers are all looking for ways to drive engagement and find new revenue streams. Amazon addressed developers concerns by reducing friction in multiple key areas, such as lowering barriers to develop skills, generate new opportunities for monetization and driving engagement, as well as helping consumers discover new features and services which will enrich user experience in the process. Several updates are also intended to make things easier for end users, a win-win for Amazon and developers.

This year’s Alexa Live saw Amazon place strong emphasis on its vision of ambient computing, positioning Alexa as a ubiquitous ambient assistant that is proactive and predictable at the same time. Alexa needs to provide the right information and features when users need them, especially with wow-factors that can reinforce users’ positive impression about Alexa’s usefulness. New features such as Proactive Suggestions coupled with Event Based Triggers will help Alexa in this regard. However, for this to become meaningful and helpful to users, Alexa would need to be available on more devices, specifically on crucial touch point devices like smartphones, where it can not only detect events based on location and activity more accurately, but also complete certain tasks on it.

The newly announced Send to Phone feature enables skill builders to send customers from their skills on Alexa enabled devices to an app on the user's smartphone, effectively handing off users to another platform or service. This is a place for Amazon and developers to start cultivating and solidifying user habit of using Alexa on the go. While it is challenging to replace incumbents like Google Assistant or Siri on smartphones, features bridging Alexa to smartphones are important to ensure continuous exposure on mobile while Amazon and partners explore multimodal interactions that are ecosystem-driven, involving smartphones.

With the new Amazon Music Spotlight feature and interactive media skill solutions, Amazon is providing artists, content providers and creators a huge leverage compared to other platforms, which are translated into more opportunities to directly engage with users. As the music streaming war continues, engagement will become highly valuable for artists and creators. This will be prioritized specially to help content creators uncover new revenue streams and new opportunities. Also, for countries and regions where music culture takes a deeper social root, music connects listeners with other emotional sources. Giving users the opportunity to engage with artists and creators they like can help solidify such emotions further, providing users a new listening experience that will elevate their perception of the importance of smart speakers and the engagement they get from interactive content.

Amazon emphasized how multimodal skills can help increase engagement and monthly active users compared to voice only skills, but multimodal feature upgrades were less significant in the event. Nevertheless, several announcements such as Alexa Presentation Language (APL) Widgets, Alexa Shopping Actions, the expansion of the Name Free Interaction Toolkit and others contributed to the development of multimodal user experience, directly or indirectly. This highlights the importance of how additional modalities of interaction could bring new user experiences and features, but at the same time, show how challenging it is for developers to build highly engaging multimodal experiences. Amazon must keep encouraging and helping developers create multimodal features to ensure smart displays can carve a unique role in households and users’ lifestyle to ensure the category’s growth.

Amazon highlighted the vast opportunity waiting for all industry players in the push towards ambient computing, stressing that there are a lot more problems for Amazon and partners to solve. Amazon has been publicly pushing its Voice Interoperability Initiative (VII) since 2019 and has positioned itself to be open and willing to help more companies get into the voice ecosystem. The company is also actively contributing to the establishment of the smart home device interoperability protocol called Matter (previously known as Project CHIP). The Amazon Custom Assistant (ACA) allowed more partners to leverage Alexa’s technology for their own voice assistant and services, further bringing more user-scenario- or use-case-specific assistants to the market. As the first few multi-agent devices are expected to hit the market by late this year or early 2022, it will be interesting to see how other incumbents such as Google and Apple respond to this paradigm shift, and how partners can truly gain from the integration of greater interoperability between devices and voice assistants.


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