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Meet this engineer from Ranchi, the brain behind Amazon Alexa

Updated : October 29, 2019 03:49 PM IST

Rohit Prasad, who breathed life into Alexa, on Wednesday said interpreting commands was a big challenge while developing Amazon's voice assistant.

Jharkhand-born Prasad, who is the vice president and head scientist of Alexa Artificial Intelligence at Amazon, said, "We wanted to invent technology where customers could interact just with voice. The fact that you do not need to hold a device to interact with computers that unleash many more possibilities. While you are cooking you can talk to Alex and get your favourite tune, so that is the simplification we have talked about."

Talking on his experience working on Alexa, he said, "In 2013, it was still very early days and we even as a community did not believe that talking to machines at a distant was even feasible. My eyes actually lit up when I walked into Amazon and was presented with this project. This was like this is the killer app for speech recognition and understanding and conversational artificial intelligence in general."

Speaking on challenges while developing Alex, Prasad said, "The biggest challenge was how do you talk to it from a distance and it should reliably wake up and then first recognise your words. Then, even if it recognised your words, like if you said, "Play Sting", what does it mean? It means to play the songs from the artist "Sting". So, interpreting the request and then doing the right thing was a big challenge."

On privacy concerns with Alexa, he said, "Customer trust is paramount to us. We believe in complete transparency and control in the hands of the customer. We have our devices with the explicit mute button. Contrary to what people think, Alexa only detects the wake word on the device locally, it is only trying to detect and the snippet that sounds like Alexa. Every recording you can go and look in our privacy hub. In your privacy history, it shows that you can delete that. We have just launched a feature where we understood that there is friction in going to the companion application or our website, all you need to do is say, "Alexa delete what I said today"."
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