Amazon Music is making Alexa chattier (but just as dorky) – CNET

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Amazon Music is making Alexa more chatty (but still just as dorky) by turning your song commands into more of a conversation. 

The hope? Less “Alexa, play dinner music. Alexa, actually play instrumental dinner music. Alexa! Play upbeat instrumental music. Alexa, why are you playing EDM?” Instead, you’d have more of a dialogue closer to a normal human interaction, without constantly retriggering Alexa’s attention after something starts to play. As a stepping stone, Amazon Music is tweaking the voice assistant by let Alexa ask follow-up questions when you’re hunting for something to hear and play song samples before asking you dive in. 

“It’s important because it matches human behavior, as simple as that,” Kintan Brahmbhatt, director of product for Amazon Music, said in an interview Wednesday. “It takes us closer to that magical moment because it’s what customers already do naturally.”

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When Amazon first launched its original Echo in 2014, the company struck gold with a hit device and ushered in a new era of voice computing. It not only put Amazon at the front of a voice-assistant race with Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft, but it also gave Amazon’s music services a plum gig — sitting on top of the most popular smart speaker with one of the most popular voice-command helpers. 

Amazon has been pushing Alexa to be more conversational previously, with features like Hunches (which allows Alexa to ask you, for example, if you’d like to turn off the light when you say “Alexa, good night”) and multistep requests. But music playback is one of the top uses of Alexa and Echo speakers, adding that back-and-forth dialogue to music discovery is a meaningful attempt to push Alexa forward. 

The conversational flow to song discovery is aimed at getting you to music you like in about 25 or 30 seconds, Brahmbhatt said. The new chatty music discover is launching Thursday in searches for generic music (“Alexa, play music”) and hunts for holiday tunes. Brahmbhatt said the company will use those as a sandbox to learn how these chats with Alexa work best before widening the feature. 

You can count on some of Alexa’s nonchalant dorkiness sprinkled in too — in my demo search for holiday tunes, Alexa informed me that “Amazon Music has a ton of merry merry good playlists.”

“Alexa, play music I like”

In addition, Amazon Music announced two other product upgrades Thursday — more-personalized tunes when you make ask Alexa to simply “play music” and beefing up the assistant’s ability to understand what you like or dislike. 

Amazon simplest music voice request is “Alexa, play music,” and the company is apply a new mix of algorithms to tailor playback more individually to you. It will take into account songs from customers’ personalized playlists, music they have liked or disliked, songs customers haven’t heard in a while or surfacing new tunes from artists a customer has asked Alexa to follow.

And Alexa is going to be taking into account likes and dislikes, both ones you explicity state and those you indicate by how you use the service. Customers can now tell Alexa when they like, or dislike, any currently playing song, album or playlist, by saying phrases like, “Alexa, I like this song,” “Alexa, this is my favorite” or “Alexa, never play this song.” And Alexa will better understand implied likes as well, such as most listened-to tracks.

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