Amazon wants to give Alexa a new brain.
The company is currently at work on a new processor for its Echo speakers that would make Alexa faster and smarter, according to a new report.
The move, reported by The Information, would be a significant shift for the company, which until now has relied on the cloud for much if its AI processing (also why Alexa panics when she loses her connection, announcing “I’m having trouble connecting to the internet”). Creating a dedicated AI chip would reduce Echo speakers’ reliance on the cloud and increase the speed with which they’re able to respond to requests and process data.
It’s not clear when such a shift would happen, but the report notes Amazon has been trying to bolster its chipmaking abilities since it acquired Israeli chipmaker Annapurna in 2015.
For consumers, the change could lead to major improvements in Alexa’s assistant capabilities. In the short term, Amazon’s assistant would be able to respond to many requests much faster than it currently does. But there could be longer-term improvements as well — by controlling both Alexa’s software and the hardware that enables it, Amazon would have much tighter control over the whole user experience.
It could also have big implications for Amazon’s business. Using its own chips means Amazon would be able to develop new AI-driven capabilities for Alexa without relying on chips crated by third-party companies. Amazon’s competitors, including Apple and Google, have also been working on their own AI processors in recent years.
The Information also reports Amazon is at work on a new set of AI chips for its data centers similar to Google’s Tensor Processing Unit.