Alexa has become synonymous with virtual assistants and a fixture in homes across the globe. With half a billion “classic Alexa” devices out in the market – Amazon sits on unrivaled potential to bring AI into homes worldwide. Reports say that company has plans to upgrade Echo devices with new features that will allow it to do new things – all powered by AI. In April, the company CEO shared plans of this more powerful Alexa. Rumored to be called “Remarkable Alexa,” the service could cost $5-10/month, according to Reuters.

What could “Remarkable Alexa” do?

In a company demo last year, Alexa’s future included a voice with a more human, friendly-tone. The idea is that, with this change, users would dialogue with Alexa more comfortably to ask her more complex questions or complete multi-step tasks.  These features, according to reports, would be powered by a large language model, similar to Chat GPT, that could allow you to order food delivery through Alexa or auto generate alerts that your favorite movie is on TV.  It could also eliminate the need for a wake word, meaning you don’t have to say “Alexa” to get it to respond.  Just by standing in front of the device, it could recognize who you are and begin to interact with you uniquely.  

AI could also allow “Remarkable Alexa” to execute multiple tasks at once.  Instead of setting up separate prompts for the morning, in one request, you could ask Alexa to wake up the kids, lower the air conditioning and turn on the kitchen lights every weekday at 7am.

Last year, Amazon shared foundational capabilities it would build into future devices, including: 

  • Conversational tone – ability to understand tone, body language and context
  • Increased personalization – allowing you to have unique experience different users
  • Personality traits – instead of a robotic, G-rated personality, new versions would have an opinion
  • Trustworthiness – confidence to trust and in its performance given it has a central role in the home

The business decision behind the ‘remarkable’ upgrade

Amazon’s initial approach had been to use its Echo devices as a gateway to get consumers to buy from the marketplace.  But, it hasn’t worked as planned. Consumers aren’t as interested in buying Alexa’s recommendations especially on devices without a video screen.  Now, Amazon’s strategy is to use AI in new ways to support Amazon’s businesses, including possibly a new paid Alexa subscription service.   

According to Reuters, there could be two tiers of Alexa services, a free one and a new  AI-powered version that could cost around $5-10/month.  The subscription would not be included a part of the Prime membership, according to CNBC.

This move is seen as necessary by investors.  Remember that Apple announced Siri upgrades that could release as early as spring, according to the Verge, with AI features. ChatGPT-4o includes new features including the ability to understand and reply in many languages, which is far superior to Alexa’s current capabilities. 

Are we ready for AI in the home and for a fee? 

Because of the large market penetration of Alexa-powered devices globally, Amazon has the unique ability to bring AI into the home and to mainstream consumers.  It could be a shepherd, in many ways, rapidly putting millions in touch with AI daily, educating consumers along the way about AI and making Amazon at the center of the experience.  

Yet by charging a fee for this service, AI revolution will likely kick off with a slower start. Will people pay for things that were once free?  That’s what giants like Meta (with its paid verification subscription) and Netflix (with its stricter shared membership policies) are testing. Any paid model would need to offer significant feature upgrades, allowing users to do more than turn on basic timers or music.  It is unknown whether the full capability of “Remarkable Alexa” could be experience without additional purchases, like new lightbulbs, switches, etc.  Lastly, would users need to purchase a new device in order to access the newer features or could it be accessed in current models?  That launch strategy is used by Apple to push upgrades to new iPhones.

Reports suggest full details could be released as soon as August.