Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant is increasingly family-friendly and helpful, largely to the credit of Adva Levin.
Levin, a content producer and designer, is the founder Pretzel Labs, an Israel-based voice design studio that focuses on creating experiences for families. In an interview with Forbes, she explained that she implements that focus in applications for Alexa, such as with Kids Court (for settling fights between kids) and Out the Door (a fun way to get them ready for school).
“In both of these skills, my attempt was to redefine the roles of Alexa in the household and try to shift her from a voice controlled music player to an active member of the family,” Levin told Forbes. “I thought of Alexa as an extra personality in the house, and wanted to see how she can help reduce friction between parents and kids.”
Levin says to do her job, it’s important to know how to listen to people and talk to them — she designing an actual conversation.
“There are two sides to building a good conversation with a computer: understanding what the person wants, and writing the AI persona that communicates with them,” she said, explaining that she hopes to advance away from irritating machine operators that know where to connect only after “1” is pressed.
There are implications to this technology: privacy concerns. In October, Amazon applied for a patent that would give Alexa the ability to learn all sorts of information about its user, from characteristics — accent, ethnic origin, emotion, gender, age — to physical location, The Intercept reported.
Yet, Levin said she is confident that the relationship between humans and voice assistants will continue to grow. She reasons that kids today are speaking to their devices, saying things like, “Alexa I love you” and “My Alexa is smarter than yours reasons.”
“Where there is a voice, even though it’s coming from something so abstract and technical as a small speaker, people tend to think of it as a person communicating with them and are forming really emotional bonds,” she said. “[Alexa] has a name, a voice and a very well written character, and is feeling very human.”
Alyssa Fisher is a news writer at the Forward. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter at @alyssalfisher