“Namaste, main Alexa hoon. Naam toh suna hi hoga…” Amazon Alexa will now be able understand and respond to queries in Hindi and Hinglish.
Rohit Prasad, Vice President and Head Scientist, Alexa AI, said for Amazon getting here was a long journey and included making a skill to make Alexa learn Hindi and get better at it. Working in Indian English for over two years also helped Alexa learn thanks to deep learning, he explained.
The deep learning models were also able to learn pronunciation variations. This also meant it was easier to address Hinglish queries, Prasad said. However, Alexa did have to learn Devanagari script from scratch since this was new for it.
Users will be able to use Alexa in Hindi by just changing the language in the backend. Soon, Alexa will be able to switch between English and Hindi seamlessly, Prasad said, adding that this will help multilingual users and households.
Rohit Prasad said the initial inspiration for Alexa, or ambient computing, was Star Trek. Alexa, which came to India in 2017, is now available on multiple devices from many brands. He also said there has been a three times increase in smart home users in the past 12 months.
“We crossed the first 100 million customers some time last year and they came from the larger cities. However, more than 70 per cent came from tier 2 and 3 cities and shop very differently,” Manish Tiwari, category head at Amazon said.
He added this was also the reason why they launched Hindi last year. “In Hindi, usage has grown by six times,” he said, adding that customers like seeing all the relevant details in Hindi.