Amazon Alexa

Amazon employees listen to Echo users' interactions to train Alexa

In this image, a crowd surrounds a stage that supports a large Amazon Echo Dot advertisement.
Dave Limp, senior vice president of Amazon devices, announces the Echo Dot in 2018. Photo: Grant Hindsley/AFP/Getty Images

Amazon employees listen to, transcribe and annotate Echo users' interactions with the smart speaker in order to "eliminate gaps in Alexa’s understanding of human speech and help it better respond to commands," Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters: Alexa, Amazon's virtual assistant, may "live in the cloud," according to Amazon's advertisements, but this work highlights the vital role humans still play in training software algorithms for smart devices — and how many users might be unaware of such work.

Alexa, comply with HIPAA

In this image, a white Amazon Alexa sits next to a black one and a gray one on a wooden countertop.
Amazon Alexa Plus, on display. Photo: Grant Hindsley/AFP/Getty Images

Amazon's Alexa has now added some new functionalities that comply with HIPAA, the health care privacy law.

Why it matters: These applications themselves aren't particularly earth-shattering, but each new step Amazon takes into the health care system is worth paying attention to, given the company's very clear desire to break into health, and particularly the pharmacy supply chain.