- Amazon’s vice president of Alexa, Steve Rabuchin, has confirmed that yes, there really are 10,000 Amazon employees working on Alexa and the Echo.
- Those employees are focused on things like machine learning and making Alexa more knowledgeable.
- Some employees are working on giving Alexa a personality, too.
Back in November, Amazon’s head of devices, Dave Limp, said that 10,000 of Amazon’s employees worked on the company’s Alexa smart assistant and the Echo products in which it lives.
Yes – according to Steve Rabuchin, Amazon’s vice president of Alexa, there really are that many employees devoted to Alexa, and we now have a better idea of what they’re actually working on.
“That is an accurate number,” Rabuchin told Business Insider at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month. “We’re so bullish on voice as the future. It’s just so early for voice, and Alexa is great, but there’s so much more that we want her to be able to do in terms of being more interactive, more conversational, and just getting better and better and better.”
Amazon now has more than 600,000 employees worldwide, but 10,000 is a not-insignificant percentage. While Rabuchin didn’t break down exactly how many employees were working on what, he did provide insight into some of the areas Amazon was focused on regarding Alexa.
Unsurprisingly, a portion of the team is focused on the technical aspects of Alexa. Rabuchin said one team was focused solely on machine learning, annotating data to make the statistical models better. This helps Alexa improve over time.
Another team was focused on the question-and-answer function of Alexa, he said.
“We have a team that’s just feeding the knowledge base all the time for question and answer, and continuing to just increase what we call the knowledge graph,” he said. “That’s a lot of people doing that. We want to be able to answer any question that gets asked of Alexa, and we’ve made a lot of improvements there. There are just thousands of people making her smarter every day.”
Beyond the technical aspects of Alexa, however, a team is also devoted to Alexa’s personality. This division falls under the supervision of Toni Reid, Amazon’s vice president of Alexa experience.
“I think from the beginning, we had a vision for how useful we wanted Alexa to be and someone who you felt was a bit of a companion, who you could speak naturally to,” Rabuchin said. “The team has just always worked to make Alexa a more valued companion and service in your life. There’s a team that just works on how Alexa behaves, how her personality is formed, and what her preferences are when she gets asked a question.”
Despite competition from Google Assistant, as well as other smart assistants like Apple’s Siri and Samsung’s Bixby, Alexa shows no sign of slowing down: Rabuchin said Amazon had seen “more than a doubling” of customers who owned more than one Alexa device. And earlier this month, Limp told The Verge that more than 100 million devices with Alexa built in to them have been sold, the most specific number Amazon has given for Alexa device sales.
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