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Amazon Says Alexa Can Predict ‘Latent’ Requests—Even If You Don’t Say Them

Amazon has stated that its in-home voice assistant technology Alexa can anticipate and respond to user requests that are not explicitly stated, called a latent request. The company made the announcement on Wednesday, and critics have already called the new feature creepy and have expressed concerns over privacy violations over how much Alexa is listening to users. An example of the new latent request feature is Alexa’s ability to predict whether you will ask for a timer to be set if you inquire about cooking time for a certain food.

The technology behind latent goal prediction is extremely complex. Amazon built custom complicated algorithms that contain machine learning tech. The algorithms are also designed to avoid screw-ups, such as Alexa responding incorrectly to a question or misunderstanding users. However, Amazon claims that not every interaction will result in Alexa making a goal prediction. It is unclear whether users can opt-out of the new feature.

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