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Amazon Announced Layoffs in Alexa Voice Assistant Unit to Focus on Gen AI

Amazon.com on Friday introduced it’s trimming jobs at its Alexa voice assistant unit, citing shifting enterprise priorities and a better give attention to generative artificial intelligence.

The cuts have an effect on a number of hundred staff engaged on Alexa, in accordance with the e-mail. A spokeswoman declined to elaborate on precisely what number of had been affected.

“We’re shifting a few of our efforts to raised align with our enterprise priorities, and what we all know issues most to prospects — which incorporates maximising our assets and efforts centered on generative AI,” Daniel Rausch, vp of Alexa and Fire TV, mentioned within the electronic mail. “These shifts are main us to discontinue some initiatives.”

Amazon has been pulling again in quite a lot of divisions this month, together with in its music and gaming divisions and a few human assets roles. 

Whereas a lot of the jobs affected had been within the gadgets division, a number of had been engaged on Alexa-related merchandise in a special unit, a spokeswoman mentioned. Many firms are shifting assets to generative AI, which might create software program code and prolonged textual content responses from brief prompts.

Alexa is a voice assistant that can be utilized to set timers, ask search queries, play music, or as a house automation hub.

Reuters reported in September that morale within the gadgets division had suffered over considerations about what some seen as a weak product pipeline. Particularly, individuals aware of the matter pointed to the Alexa voice assistant, now practically a decade previous, as having didn’t maintain tempo within the age of generative synthetic intelligence. 

Amazon mentioned on the time that “to recommend that a number of anecdotes paint an image of actuality for a company as giant and various as Gadgets and Companies is inaccurate,” and that it stood by its merchandise.

Amazon has mentioned its gadgets and providers enterprise just isn’t worthwhile, with out offering figures.

Solely final month the gadget unit obtained a brand new chief, Panos Panay, who joined the corporate from Microsoft, changing David Limp, a 13-year veteran who’s leaving later this 12 months to go Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket firm. Panay had overseen improvement of the Floor pill.

Amazon has struggled to generate any income from Alexa, which many individuals use by means of Echo audio system or video screens. Most efforts to earn money from it have centered on easing buying from Amazon.com.

The Seattle-based on-line retailer’s voice assistant merchandise compete with choices from Alphabet and Apple.

Amazon has minimize greater than 27,000 jobs throughout the corporate over the previous 12 months, a part of a wave of US tech layoffs after the business employed closely individuals throughout the pandemic. 

The newest cuts come at the same time as Amazon reported third-quarter internet revenue that far exceeded analyst estimates and forecast income within the 12 months’s last quarter roughly in step with expectations. The fourth quarter is Amazon’s most important, because it contains vacation purchasing.

Within the electronic mail, Rausch mentioned he remained optimistic about Alexa. 

“Incorporating a brand new giant language mannequin right into a voice-forward, private AI, has been and continues to be an unlimited scientific and engineering problem,” he wrote, utilizing one other time period for generative AI.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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