November 6 is an important day for Amazon: Alexa’s 5th birthday. Like any birthday, this milestone gives us an opportunity to celebrate the many ways Alexa has impacted customers’ lives, and look ahead to what’s next.
The introduction of Alexa five years ago was a pivotal moment for artificial intelligence — it brought voice-first technology out of the lab, and now tens of millions of customers use Alexa each month.
When we started working on Alexa, the technology didn't even exist. While voice computing was not new, our vision for it — affordable, always-ready, far-field technology that’s functional even in noisy environments—was different. Amazonians have spent years inventing to solve hard science and engineering problems so that we can execute against that original vision. Today, their work in leading-edge technology like deep neural networks, transfer learning, active learning, and unsupervised learning — combined with investments in cloud computing, customer experience, and a world-class hardware team—means we can deliver truly ambient computing experiences that make customers’ lives easier, more convenient, and more fun.
Five years ago, Alexa only knew how to do 13 things; today she can do so much more, from planning a night out to identifying grocery items for visually impaired customers, and has more than 100,000 skills from developers. At launch, she only spoke one language; today Alexa can tell jokes or share the latest news in 8 languages and 7 language variants. We launched with Alexa available on one device; today there are hundreds of products with Alexa built-in, from cars and smartphones to PCs, headphones, and wearables—and customers can choose from more than 85,000 Alexa-compatible products. There are now hundreds of thousands of developers building for and with Alexa, and the Alexa flywheel is helping to generate billions of dollars for the developer and device-maker community.
By any measure, the momentum around Alexa is incredible. But it’s the customer stories that really inspire us to keep inventing: the husband who told us just last week he used Drop In to notify his wife that she needed to evacuate from the wildfires in California, the customer who used Alexa to entertain himself and set alarms to remind him to take his medications while recovering from a kidney transplant, or the grandmother who fell in her home and used Alexa to call for help. Customers interact with Alexa billions of times each week, so there are countless more examples I could share.
On behalf of the 10,000 Amazonians who work on Alexa, thank you to each of the customers who have decided to come on this journey with us. We are humbled by your support. As we look towards the next five years, we’re going to deliver even more for you by making Alexa smarter, more conversational, more proactive, and even more delightful.
If you’d like, please join us in celebrating. Just say, “Alexa, happy birthday” to listen to a birthday surprise put together with a special guest.