Jeff Bezos talked Tuesday about the impact of its Echo product and the Alexa platform as science fiction becoming reality. He stated, "It has been a dream since the early days of science fiction to have a computer that you can talk to in a natural way and actually have a conversation and ask it to do things for you. That is coming true." Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was interviewed by Recode's Walt Mossberg at the Recode Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. The entire video interview is below.
Bezos sees these artificial learning products as just in the very beginning of their development. Bezos told the audience, "There's so much more to come. It's just the tip of the iceberg of what you can do with these types of technologies! It's the first inning. It might even be the first guys up at bat. It's really early and I think we are on the edge of a golden era. It's going to be so exciting to see what happens."
Amazon has a family of products called Echo and they are driven by a platform called Alexa and they are actually licensing the technology to be embedded in applications that other companies are developing as well. Bezos elaborated, "We've exposed different SDK's for Alexa. One is the Alexa Voice Service which lets you embed through a set of API's. You can embed Alexa in your own device or app and do with it what you want. If you make an alarm clock, for instance, you can embed Alexa Voice Service in it. We also have the Alexa Skills Kit which lets you teach Alexa new skills. Those two things work together."
Bezos was asked about the the gains in AI through machine learning and if this will be the underpinnings of tech over the next 10 years as we move from the period of frantic growth and development in smart phones? Bezos replied:
"I think its gigantic. I think natural language understanding and machine learning in general and artificial intelligence... it's probably hard to overstate how big of an impact it is going to have on society over the next 20 years. It is big. It doesn't mean that phones are going to go away. Its' not like voice interfaces are going to replace screens. As long as people have eyes they are going to want screens and they still want to touch things and so on. But it has been a dream since the early days of science fiction to have a computer that you can talk to in a natural way and actually have a conversation and ask it to do things for you. That is coming true. You're seeing similar amazing progress with extreme vision. The combination of new and better algorithms, vastly superior compute power and the ability to harness huge amounts of training data -- those 3 things are coming together to solves previously unsolvable problems. They're going to drive a tremendous amount of utility for customers and customers are going to adopt those things."
Jeff Bezos added, "We've exposed to different SDK's for Alexa. One is the Alexa Voice Service which lets you embed through a set of API's. You can embed Alexa in your own device or app and do with it what you want. If you make an alarm clock you can embed Alexa Voice Service in it. We also have the Alexa Skills Kit which lets you teach Alexa new skills. Those two things work together."
Mossberg asked if Amazon is "deeply committed to this being a huge part of Amazon's business"? To which Bezos replied, "Absolutely. We've worked on it behind the scenes for 4 years. We have more than a thousand people dedicated just to Alexa and the Echo ecosystem. We have now a set of third party apps that people have built using are SDK. There's so much more to come. It's just the tip of the iceberg of what you can do with these types of technologies!"
What about competitors? "All of the major tech companies will do this, but there will also be hundred's of startup companies. There will also be new advances. One of the things is that right now bigger companies like Amazon have an advantage, especially because of the training data sets that are required to do this because you need a lot of data to the extraordinary things with the current algorithms we have. Just remember that humans learn in a very different way. Humans are unbelievably data efficient. We learn these incredibly complex things. You don't have to drive a million miles to be able to drive a car. But the way we teach a self driving car to drive today is we have the algorithms drive a million miles and they are still not as good in certain scenarios as a human would be. So humans are doing all kinds of things to make that possible. We're also very power efficient. For instance, Alpha Go, which is a really impressive achievement beat the world's best Alpha Go player. He's operating on about 50 watts, Humans are just doing something fundamentally different than the current way that we do machine learning and machine intelligence."
Bezos added, "The longer you've been around, the more humble you get about tech."