Interview: Amazon answers our questions about Alexa & Echo!

Alexa is two years old! If this age is still synonymous with the first developments on a human scale, it is ultimately a bit the same for voice assistants. Far from maturity, Alexa has, however, learned a lot since his official arrival in France on June 13, 2018. Two years punctuated, for its users, with significant progress, some bugs of course, but also and above all expectations. On the occasion of this anniversary, we were able to ask a few questions to Philippe Daly, Country Manager ofAlexa in France. Straightforward questions, more nuanced answers, which we are happy and honored to transcribe to you this evening.

Hello Philippe! Two years ago, Alexa arrived on the French market with a little over 200 Skills, where is it today?

The developer community Alexa has created nearly 2 Skills to date.

Impressive ! What are the most used to date?

Today there are many categories of Skills. The French like to listen to the radio. We find the large stations among the most used Skills: NRJ, France info - and in particular the skill New World by Jérôme Colombain that we invite you to activate, editor's note - RTL Chérie FM, RTL2, France Inter, Nostalgie, Europe 1, Fun Radio, Virgin Radio, France Bleu and FIP. They also appreciate having their hands free in the kitchen to follow a recipe thanks to marmiton. Consult the TV program with Télé Loisirs or sound horoscope with Elle remain very popular. The Skills dedicated to children are also in great demand, especially Les Petites Histoires and the sounds of animals, as well as games, such as Akinator or Musical Quiz.

"We favor quality over quantity […]" Philippe Daly

It is often question, on our community, the lack of interest in certain Skills… Don't you fear that there are too many Skills and that the best ones will end up being a little drowned in the mass?

We prioritize quality over quantity, taking care to certify Skills that provide an experience that works well for users. Moreover, users are invited to rate the Skills on the Store, where you can find the Skills classified by category and we also offer a selection to help test new experiences.

Selection of the best skills for your Amazon Echo Show 2 and AlexaThe number has changed a lot since the launch ...

At launch, there were Skills responding to the most expected services. Today there is something for everyone and new ones are created every day with new uses.

A good example lately are the Skills created to play board games with Alexa such as Les Aventuriers du Rail, The Adventurers of Rail Europe or the famous Thousand mile stones. Alexa can be a full player, explain the rules, count points or even immerse yourself in the world of the game with a dedicated sound environment. A real new experience, much appreciated by users.

“It's a real success with twice as many Blueprints as Skills in just one month! " Philippe Daly

Isn't it too complicated to develop skills?

Not really. As you know we have released Alexa Blueprints in France a month ago. Until now, all developers could create a skill using the free tools within theAlexa Skills Kit (ASK).

Since last May, everyone can now create their own skill thanks to Blueprints. Blueprints are simple models which allow everyone to be able to create answers and skills Alexa personalized in minutes, without coding knowledge. In particular, users can create their own skills to plan and track household chores or develop review sheets or even create their own answers to questions of their choice, such as « Alexa, who is the best mom in the world? ".

The Skills BlueprintsAlexa thus allow you to create experiences that are personalized for you and your family and to make Alexa even more useful for all. You can also share them with your family and friends or post them in the Skills store Alexa for everyone to enjoy. It's a real success with twice as many Blueprints as Skills in just one month!

“Users interact tens of millions of times per week with Alexa in France " Philippe Daly, Country Manager Alexa France

Apart from Skills, what are the most used features?

Listen to music, the radio, control your connected home, check the weather forecast, program an alarm clock or a timer, listen to the daily content offered by Alexa are the most used features outside of Skills.

The French increasingly appreciate the way Alexa can help to do even more. Users interact tens of millions of times a week with Alexa in France also for: getting answers to their questions quickly, a flash info, adding an item to their shopping or to-do list, reading a book Kindle or a audible audiobook, be notified when a package is about to be delivered, communicate with their family or friends or use their devices as an intercom and communicate with any room in the house thanks to the Drop In and Announcements features.

"[…] The French are the most polite and romantic in Europe […]" Philippe Daly

What are the most asked questions to Alexa ?

Among the most frequently asked questions, we find the weather forecast, the horoscope, the TV program, do a calculation, give the definition or spelling of a word, questions related to geography or events, as well as content that we offer on a daily basis, such as the question or the fact of the day.

Among the anecdotes, we can note that the French are the most polite and romantic in Europe (most " Thank you ", " I love you " say to Alexa). Another fun fact, the song "Bring the cup home" of Vegedream (football world cup 2018) in the top 5 for 56 weeks

“The internationalization of features is a priority for us. " Philippe Daly, Amazon Alexa France

TO READ :
Alexa now read your agenda on Amazon Echo

There is regular talk of a much-anticipated feature that beta testers ofAlexa have for two years and which has become the subject of jokes: when will it be possible to use the calendar in routines?

We're glad beta testers are embracing this feature. We are working to make it more widely available.

Two other major features are also in high demand: Alexa Guard and the 'hearth Amazon ". Why so many delays between feature launches in the United States and in France?

The internationalization of functionalities is a priority for us. We pay a lot of attention to bringing in each country an experience which always arouses more interest for the customers. Localization of a feature involves working on its proper functioning in a new language and this is never trivial if you want to do it properly.

“Among other things, new features, improvements in his understanding, his personality, his conversational skills. " Philippe Daly

Even Germany is still ahead of us by very long months, we are thinking in particular of the Fire TV Cube, and the recent release of the Fire HD 8 tablet with Alexa… Are these products going to see the light of day in France?

Our vision is thatAlexa or wherever our customers are and on any device they want. We launch devices and features when they're ready and the team is working hard to integrate Alexa on the expected products. Many elements and challenges come into play, in particular the adaptation to the language, accents and services present locally. We want to offer a truly local experience and take the time to build this experience for French customers for each product or feature launched.

« Alexa is now integrated into nearly 200 devices ” Philippe Daly

The French version ofAlexa will it eventually catch up with its American version?

The internationalization of all our products and services is extremely important and we work every day to make Alexa smarter, more useful and more fun.

How many products with Alexa integrated are available in France?

More and more device manufacturers are integrating for free Alexa thanks to Alexa Voice Service (AVS) to add the convenience of voice control to their products. At launch, around thirty audio-focused products (such as Bose, Sonos or Boulanger's EssentielB) were on board Alexa in France.

Alexa is now integrated into nearly 200 devices, covering all categories of connected products, from the Orange Djingo speaker to the Freebox Delta, including the Xbox console, headsets, telephones, TVs, computers or home devices. Thousands of other products are also compatible Alexa. Alexa has since also been available in the car on Volkswagen or Mini models and the Echo Auto device will be launched in France by the end of the year to allow it to be taken in a vehicle when traveling.

“French users have asked Alexa turn lights on and off millions of times since launch. " Philippe Daly

Our experience leads us to believe that, apart from audio and video streaming, the main use of a connected assistant today is home automation. Do you see it as well?

French users asked Alexa turn lights on and off millions of times since launch. There is a real enthusiasm for the automation indeed and particularly in recent weeks with this period of confinement at home.

Customers are increasingly looking at these devices that can be operated by Alexa and make their lives easier, such as light bulbs, cameras or robot vacuum cleaners. Ask Alexa switching lights on and off is one of the most frequently used functions.

This is also explained by the fact that the smart bulbs are more accessible in terms of price, as are more and more connected objects. Users also like being able to ask Alexa to see the pictures of baby in his room thanks to a connected camera or see who is at the front door with a compatible video doorbell such as Ring for example.

In your opinion, are voice purchases set to develop? What are the main obstacles to its adoption?

Users love that they can add a product to their shopping list and be able to purchase it with a simple voice command to save time, but it's not yet one of the most requested features. It still takes a while to get used to paying by voice, just as it did with contactless. We are happy to have been able to collaborate with the Red Cross recently and with the Telethon last year and to be able to offer users ofAlexa to donate by voice.

Customer trust is at the center of everything we do and we take the protection of privacy and the security of personal data very seriously. Philippe Daly, Country Manager Alexa France

This is clearly not something that bothers users ofAlexa, but a subject that the media are crazy about: have you managed to reassure confidentiality?

Customer trust is at the center of everything we do and We take the protection of privacy and the security of personal data very seriously. It is important to explain this aspect in full transparency. The French particularly need answers to these questions to adopt this technology and it is legitimate.

So allow me to recall all the features made available to users so that they have control of their data with many options added since launch.

Alexa and appliances Amazon Echo are designed with multiple levels of privacy protection and control over your personal information, from the buttons allowing to disable microphones and camera up to the ability to view, listen to and delete your voice recordings at any time.

"No sound is stored or sent to the cloud unless the device detects the wake-up or theAlexa is activated by pressing a button. " Philippe Daly, Country Manager Alexa France

By default, Echo devices are designed to detect only the chosen activation word (Alexa, Amazon or Echo). The device detects the wake-up word by identifying the acoustic patterns that match the wake-up word. No sound is stored or sent to the cloud unless the device detects the wake-up or theAlexa is activated by pressing a button.

The experience provides users with a clear indication of when audio is streaming. You will always know when Alexa saves and sends your request to the secure cloud ofAmazon : A blue indicator light will appear or a beep will sound on your Echo device. When you press the off button to turn off the microphones, they are electronically disabled and a dedicated red LED lights up to indicate that the microphones are turned off.

“There is always a time to adapt and adopt any new technology and perhaps even more particularly in France. " Philippe Daly

Users have always had the option of deleting their voice recordings Alexa, and we work every day to make it easier for them to control their data. Over its two years, many features have been created to provide even more transparency and control to users.

You can simply ask: « Alexa, erase everything I said today » et « Alexa, erase what I just said » to facilitate the deletion of recordings by customers or anyone else who interacts with a device. We've taken automatic removal a step further. Customers can choose to automatically and continuously erase their voice recordings and text transcripts older than 3 or 18 months. To have greater transparency in the responses obtained fromAlexa, users can also request: « Alexa, what did you hear ? " et Alexa will replay the last spoken voice request. You can also ask, « Alexa, why did you do that ? " et Alexa briefly explain their response to your last voice request.

At the same time, we have created Alexa Privacy Hub so that users have access to all the information on Alexa and the characteristics that ensure transparency and control of their experience with Alexa. Users can view and delete voice recordings associated with their account in the app Alexa or by visiting the privacy centerAlexa online.

“There is always a time to adapt and adopt any new technology and perhaps even more particularly in France. " Philippe Daly, Amazon Alexa France

Does the French market seem mature to you?

There is always a time of adaptation and adoption for any new technology and perhaps even more particularly in France.

It took a long time for people to adopt a mobile phone, then a smartphone. It takes time for the French to understand what a new technology can bring them, how it can make their life easier or more pleasant. This is also the case for Alexa, these two years have allowed the French to familiarize themselves with it, to understand how it works, and today we can see a growing craze.

What will look like Alexa in 2 years ?

We are continuing our efforts to make Alexa even more natural, personal and useful, so that it can help you do more and in more places and devices, so that it can help you every moment. This will manifest itself in various ways. Among other things, new features, improvements in understanding, personality, conversation skills. We are working hard to ensure that she can answer any questions users ask and create new experiences or surprises. Recently we have set up personality tests to find out which superhero you are for example. Or, you all know the Easter Eggs, but did you know that there are over 200 to discover? Moreover, today do not forget to say: " Alexa, happy Birthday ! ". She will offer you a quiz to check your knowledge about her and have a little surprise in store for you.

 

Fascinated by Alexa since the day I received it in beta test, I gradually became passionate about the subject, before deciding to go further by creating a site with Jean-Christophe. An activity that allows me to quench my thirst for new technologies and share my discoveries about the nicest of communities: Les Alexiens.