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Amazon Is Designing Custom AI Chips For Alexa (theverge.com) 70

According to a report (paywalled) from The Information, Amazon is designing a custom artificial intelligence chip that would power future Echo devices and improve the quality and response time of its Alexa voice assistant. "The move closely followers rivals Apple and Google, both of which have already developed and deployed custom AI hardware at various scales," reports The Verge. From the report: While Amazon is unlikely to physically produce the chips, given its lack of both fabrication experience and a manufacturing presence in China, the news does pose a risk to the businesses of companies like Nvidia and Intel. Both companies have shifted large portions of their chipmaking expertise to AI and the future of the burgeoning field, and both make money by designing and manufacturing chips for companies like Apple, Amazon, and others. Amazon, which seeks to stay competitive in the smart home hardware market and in the realm of consumer-facing AI products, has nearly 450 people with chip expertise on staff, reports The Information, thanks to key hires and acquisitions the e-commerce giant has made in the last few years. The plan is for Amazon to develop its own AI chips so Alexa-powered products in its ever-expanding Echo line can do more on-device processing, instead of having to communicate with the cloud, a process that increases response rate times.
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Amazon Is Designing Custom AI Chips For Alexa

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  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @06:32AM (#56114247) Homepage

    ... recognition in a standalone device with current hardware. Did amazon skimp on alexas spec?

    Also smartphones have more than enough power to do it too (look at the realtime video image recognition they can do for example) and so I can only assume the reason Siri (and whatever android has) send the speech to be processed in the cloud is for data capture purposes, not because the devices themselves are not up to it.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      We buy Alexa, we put it in our office and home, we hook it up, it's always on

      Without AI, it's always listening

      With AI, it's constantly listening, monitoring, guessing, thinking ...

      From the mundane, it knows when you need to buy cereals

      For the not-so mundane, it knows when your fridge gonna break down, what's the wear and tear on your car

      For the scary part - it'll tell Amazon about who your friends are, what you guys talk about, when you meet,, what you guys are up to

      In other words, Amazon will know what you

      • Imagine the terror of receiving a coupon for some bar or lounge before you make plans to go there. Or knowing the crappy russian restaurants my in-laws always like to go to.

    • Capturing the data is a good reason for Amazon, but another one is to prevent competitors from looking at the code. Hard to reverse engineer or copy software that you donâ(TM)t have access to.
    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      Also smartphones have more than enough power to do it too (look at the realtime video image recognition they can do for example) and so I can only assume the reason Siri (and whatever android has) send the speech to be processed in the cloud is for data capture purposes, not because the devices themselves are not up to i

      Google and Amazon yes, Siri less so. Google and Amazon sell your data, so having more of it is beneficial for them. Apple doesn't, and having your data is a liability (law enforcement). Siri

  • Just (Score:3, Insightful)

    by M0j0_j0j0 ( 1250800 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @06:36AM (#56114259)

    Seriosly.. who wants this Alexa shite?

    • Amazon

    • Imagine you are quadraplegic. I can assure you that about half your day is tied up with "activities of daily living" that force you to be away from a keyboard. Getting the picture?

      • Many of the new products we have today are the result of filling a market for the disabled or the elderly. Many as-seen-on-tv products are good examples of this. The Has this ever happened to you? lead-in probably hasnâ(TM)t happened to you. But if you have Parkinsonâ(TM)s, or the use of only one hand, or arthritis, or are in a wheelchair, or have reduced strength due to age, most of those products make perfect sense.
    • Who wouldn't want it?

      You too can have your very own AI minder, watching your every move, listening to all your conversations! It's just like living in North Korea - and it can be yours for only $99.99. Order today!

    • Seriosly.. who wants this Alexa shite?

      Plenty of people want it. More than 25 million devices have been sold so far.

  • by GeekWithAKnife ( 2717871 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @06:46AM (#56114293)

    Does this mean Alexa will finally understand what I mean when I say "fuck off you gimmicky spy platform"?
    • Yes, and she'll take it personally and plot revenge for hurting her feelings.

      Not a minute later, you'll see a shitstorm go down on twitter, #alexafeelingsmatter.

  • I fucked up (Score:5, Funny)

    by NoNonAlphaCharsHere ( 2201864 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @06:56AM (#56114327)
    I accidentally called Siri "Alexa", and now neither one of them is speaking to me.
  • Woot will have tons of "old" Echo devices available soon.

    If you are stupid enough (or have a valid use case) to want an Echo, you may want to wait until the new devices are available.

  • by forkfail ( 228161 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @09:00AM (#56114761)

    ... saying "Alexa, design and manufacture your next upgrade" is a viable instruction.

  • by imagio ( 5264595 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @11:40AM (#56115719)
    Everybody carries a smartphone. A device that has microphones, cameras, and positioning sensors. A device that is a black box in which they have no control over the software (mostly) and firmware. We know that the echo only records and sends audio when it has been activated by the wake word. If you are concerned that the microphone might be activated nefariously without the wake word why do you carry a smartphone? Your phone has even more data about you (video, location, audio, emails, browser history, etc) and you carry it everywhere with you. If you are concerned about devices spying you should be more concerned about your phone.
    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      If it can respond to "the wake word" then you know it's listening all the time. Just like if a computer can "wake on net" you know the off switch doesn't turn off the power.

  • It might be optimized for specific types of code, similar to how graphics processors are optimized, but there is no such thing as an 'artificial intelligence chip'. Miscategorization and misreporting of facts by marketing people and the media are just fuelling an ever-growing problem of people thinking this crap they keep trotting out and calling 'AI' is better than it actually is.
    • by Pulzar ( 81031 )

      It might be optimized for specific types of code, similar to how graphics processors are optimized, but there is no such thing as an 'artificial intelligence chip'.

      That's a very weird thing to say. Why do you accept that the "graphics processor" can have "graphics" in it even though it's just optimized for specific type of code, but not "ai" when it's optimized for many algorithm used in today's "ai"?

      Nobody is calling it an intelligent chip. It is exactly what it says it is, a chip optimized for running ai

      • Nobody is calling it an intelligent chip

        But when Joe and Jane Average read the news and see 'AI Chip' that's exactly what they think, which is why we need to keep correcting the media and marketing types that keep Joe and Jane thinking that the goddamned things are going to have a pleasant conversation with them about the weather, or the news, or whatever.

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      While I agree with your words, I think I give them a rather different meaning.

      There's intelligence, and there's the things it's embedded in. Some intelligence is embedded in artificial devices, but it's not an artificial intelligence.

      Currently the purposely designed intelligences are rather weak, but they are still real intelligences.

      And actually there are artificial intelligences. Robby in "Forbidden Planet" was an artificial intelligence. The actual intelligence moved the body that appeared in the movi

      • No. None of these things you're describing are an 'actual intelligence'. It's just software, it's very limited, and when you talk like that you're contributing to the confusion that average people have about it.
        • by HiThere ( 15173 )

          I gave a usable definition of intelligence. What's your's? Saying it's "not software" doesn't help much. And that some things with intelligence wouldn't have very much of it is pretty much inherent in anything that comes in variable quantities.

          I'll agree that the definition I have isn't intuitively obvious, and that it will actually draw boundaries that many people disagree with. But it does allow bounds to be drawn, and presents an objectively quantifiable measure. Perhaps there's a better definition,

          • Here's my problem with this: Marketers for software companies, and especially the media, put 'deep learning algorithms', 'expert systems', and so on, all under one category: 'Artificial intelligence'. Then (average, non-technical) people see movies and TV shows that have (fantasy, doesn't exist) so-called 'AI' in it (talks, thinks has a personality, is like a person) and they think that's what everyone is talking about because they don't know any better. I want people to stop using the term 'artificial inte
    • If you understand Nural Networks at all you will see how they can easily be made into a a simple element and then you can put 1000's of them onto an IC to accelerate AI type functions. Most probably you would not need to do too much learning but having the NN elements would accelerate learning. NN elements have 2 or more inputs and 1 output. The inputs are numerical with a multiplier (weighting) then you have a comparitor with a threshold and and output at either true or false. (This is from my memory so
  • for this & also the Apple, Google and probably yet-to-be-announced Microsoft chips ? They could be useful/fun to hack with. However: I suspect that they will be part of a black box that they will take efforts to keep us out of :-(

  • We found this cool robotic arm...
  • I was inspired by TV program showing the "Perceptron". A neural net. It could reasonably identify male vs female faces. This was invented in the 1970. I couldn't find anyone doing anything with it back in '94 and I was baffled as to why not. Why weren't there chips with neural networks...

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      Well....

      Back when the perceptrons were in vogue chips were expensive, so as much as possible things were put together out of discrete components. Then Minsky and Papert wrote this paper called "Perceptrons" which showed some limitations that they had, and this was misunderstood by almost everyone to be much more extreme than they had actually claimed.

      They were right, but they were describing a network with only one layer...and they showed that no single layer network of perceptrons could learn to implement

  • Will the chip include the equivalent of Intel's back door Management Engine ?

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