Amazon has big plans to make Alexa a much more useful assistant.
Among them: The company plans to add a “memory” feature that will allow its assistant to store information on demand.
The upcoming feature will enable Alexa to “store arbitrary information you want and retrieve it later,” according to Amazon. It’s a bit like reminders, but the information can be stored for an indefinite amount of time.
For example, you could ask Alexa to remember family members’ birthdays or where you parked your car.
This type of feature, which the company says will start to roll out “soon,” opens up some interesting possibilities for the future as well. If Alexa can remember random bits of information you tell it, then perhaps one day it could proactively act on the details by setting up reminders or other helpful tasks.
“This memory feature is the first of many launches this year that will make Alexa more personalized,” Amazon’s director of Alexa machine learning Ruhi Sarikaya wrote in a blog post. “It’s early days, but with this initial release we will make it easier for customers to save information, as well as provide a natural way to recall that information later.”
Sarikaya also revealed Amazon is working on an additional feature that will improve Alexa’s communication abilities: the ability to understand context. Rolling out first in the U.S., U.K., and Germany, this will allow Alexa to understand followup questions so you don’t have to constantly repeat the same information.
For example, you could ask, “Alexa, what’s the weather in San Francisco?” and follow up with “How about next week?”
Other digital assistants have been able to handle these types of queries for years (Google Assistant is particularly adept at it), but it’s been one of Alexa’s more frustrating limitations. So the forthcoming update should come as welcome news to those who want Alexa to be better at actually understanding what they’re asking about.