Jeff Chiu / AP

Amazon's Alexa, the voice-recognition digital service, is one of the fastest-growing tools that takes advantage of machine-learning capabilities. In a Deloitte analysis of 2017 tech trends released today , Amazon executives Maria Renz and Toni Reid gave some insight into Alexa's development. Since launching Echo in November 2014, Amazon has added more than 7,000 skills to Alexa, they said.

The original inspiration for the Amazon Echo was the Star Trek computer. We wanted to create a computer in the cloud that's controlled entirely by voice—you can ask it things, ask it to do things for you, find things for you, and it's easy to converse with in a natural way. We're not quite there yet, but that was our vision.
One of the key capabilities of Alexa, the voice and brain behind Echo, is that she's a cloud-based service that is always getting smarter, in both features and natural language understanding and with improved accuracy. Because her brain is in the cloud, she continually learns and adds more functionality, every hour, every day, which only makes it easier to innovate and add features on behalf of customers.

Why it matters: With Alexa and Echo, Amazon is trying to dominate how people interact with all the devices in their homes, cars and eventually offices. Alexa is also a prime example of how machine learning — or the process of automatically discovering patterns in data — are being used in consumer devices. As Deloitte points out, the data created by consumers doubles in size every year. So tools that can effectively sift through and analyze that data will be used in a number of different use cases, from hospitals to schools.

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