- Amazon lately has been bulking up the sports-related knowledge of its Alexa intelligent assistant.
- Alexa can now give the odds on upcoming games and answer questions about players’ career statistics.
- In coming months, it will also be able to notify users when a game is about to start and offer updates on users fantasy football players.
In the past, if you wanted to know what was going on in the sports world, you might have tuned in ESPN or headed to your favourite sports website.
Now you might want to just ask Alexa, Amazon’s intelligent assistant, best known as the voice of the Amazon Echo line of speakers.
Just in time for the NFL season, Amazon has been stuffing Alexa full of sports knowledge. You can now ask it to give you the odds on the upcoming game between the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos, to tell you how many passing yards Joe Montana threw for in his career, and to give you the name of the Pittsburgh Steelers backup running back. In the near future, Alexa will be able to give fantasy football fans updates on their players, and alert users when their teams are about to take the field.
Sports-related questions have become some of the most popular ones to ask Alexa in recent years, Jason Semine, principal product manager for sports information on Amazon’s Alexa team, said in an email.
“Sports moments are very important to our customers,” Semine said. He continued: “So, this year we wanted to double-down in this area and see where else Alexa might be useful as it relates to sports.”
In recent weeks, Amazon has added a slew of new sports-related features to Alexa. Among them:
- Answers to an assortment of trivia-related questions relating to sports history, records and statistics.
- Updates on the latest injuries and transactions involving individual players or teams.
- Predictions on who will win upcoming games, including the latest betting line.
- Recaps of completed games.
- Radio-like reports offering fans the latest information on their favourite teams.
Within the next several months, Alexa users will also be able to ask for updates on their fantasy players and have it notify them when particular games start.
Alexa could know even more about sports soon
Alexa relies on some 50 different sources, including Stats.com and Sportradar, to provide answers to sports-related inquiries, Semine said. But Amazon has done a lot of work in the sports area in-house, including helping Alexa better respond to questions that are phrased using regular language rather than with specific command words.
The Alexa team has also been working to ensure that the intelligent assistant is able to respond to questions about sports events as they happen and to understand the context of particular inquiries, he said. If an Alexa users asks for the score of the Stanford game, the team has been trying to fine-tune the system so that it knows whether the user is referring to football, men’s basketball, or women’s basketball when you ask about a game.
“The Alexa service is getting smarter every day,” Semine said. He continued: “Our long-term goal is for Alexa to understand and be able to answer all questions, in all forms, from anywhere in the world.”
Alexa isn’t the only intelligent assistant that knows about sports. Apple’s Siri has long been able to answer sports-related questions, including ones about team standings and player-related statistics. Earlier this year, the company added to it the ability to respond to questions about professional tennis and golf.
Meanwhile, Google Assistant can answer a selection of sports queries, including about teams’ latest scores and standings. Apps, or skills, that connect with Assistant can allow the service to respond to an even broader range of inquiries, including ones related to your fantasy football players or the latest horse-racing results.
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