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Amazon Reportedly developing its own AI Chip to Improve Alexa

Amazon is said to be working on creating its own Artificial Intelligence (AI) chip to perform the task faster that could make its hardware more reliable. According to the report through The Information, Amazon has started designing a custom artificial intelligence chip that would power future Echo devices and improve the quality and response time of its Alexa voice assistant.

Right now, the way Alexa works is when you ask a question on a piece of Amazon-branded hardware like the Amazon Echo or Echo Show, your question is shot into the cloud for processing.The internal hardware in an Echo device is not fast or powerful enough to handle the question on its own, so there’s a slight delay as your question is thrown to the cloud, answered, thrown back, and then finally made audible by Alexa.

Personally speaking, getting answers from Echo much more quickly or even by a few seconds, might seem like a move that’s not quite important. Amazon, on the other hand, relies on capturing a user’s interest in the absolute critical moment to execute on a sale, it seems important enough for them to drop that response time as close to zero as possible so that Amazon can give you the answer you need immediately especially, in the future, if it’s a product that you’re likely to buy.

Apple and Google, both tech giants have already developed and deployed custom AI hardware at various scales. AI tasks, because they are so computationally intensive, often need custom-designed chips for the devices themselves and even custom-designed servers for data centers where AI algorithms are often trained, developed, and deployed from the cloud.

With this move, Amazon joins its rival Google in the Chip making game. Google is using its own chips to support services such as Street View, Photos, Search and Translate through Google Assistant and its Google Home devices.

As dependency on third-party chip makers would slow down the progress. Google already aware of this, heavily invested in making its own powerful cloud AI chips to get Google Assistant in anything it possibly can get into.

Amazon acquired chip designer Annapurna Labs back in 2015 and has slowly begun churning out its own processors. It was only a matter of time before it started designing and producing chips specifically for its own hardware needs. The company has also begun hiring chip engineers for Amazon Web Services, signaling that it may be moving to its own proprietary chips for these data centers as well.

The Information’s report also suggests that Amazon may be working on AI chips for AWS, geared toward machine training. While this does make sense, In theory, this move from Amazon would throw its full weight behind.

The wide array of companies working off AWS don’t need some kind of bleeding-edge machine training hardware and would be fine training models a few times a week or month and get the results that they need. That being said, it does make sense to fiddle with this space a little bit given the interest from other companies, even if they gain nothing.


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Harsh Sharma