Amazon's Alexa AI can finally understand follow-up questions

Amazon's Alexa AI can finally understand follow-up questions
Amazon's Alexa AI is insanely cool, and while the folks over in Seattle have been doing a tremendous job at making their virtual assistant smarter and smarter since its initial release, it still isn't quite perfect. One of the biggest disadvantages that the Alexa platform has faced since its inception has been its inability to understand follow-up questions. This sort of contextual awareness is something that Google has been rocking for years, and it's a big selling point for Google Home. Being able to say "Ok, Google, how old is Tom Cruise?" and then follow up with "Ok, Google, how old is he?" and having Google's AI understand who "he" is in that question really is quite fantastic.

Up until this point in time, this sort of functionality has been something that Alexa just hasn't been capable of. However, thanks to numerous reports on Reddit and confirmation from the folks over at Android Police, it looks like Alexa is finally being updated to support these kind of questions. It's been confirmed that asking something along the lines "Alexa, who is the President of the United States?" and then following up with "Alexa, how old is he?" now returns a proper answer. This is something that previously wasn't available with Amazon's AI, so seeing this sort of functionality finally being released is awesome.

At the time of this writing, it appears that only some owners of products like the Echo and Echo Dot have this new functionality. We'd guess that it'll start making its way to everyone over the next few days, and although its current implementation isn't nearly as good at what Google has to offer with the Google Assistant, we think it's pretty safe to assume that this is an area of Alexa that Amazon will put a good deal of time into improving moving forward.

source: Reddit via TechnoBuffalo



1. meanestgenius

Posts: 22210; Member since: May 28, 2014

Alexa is awesome. Very happy with my decision to get an Amazon Echo Dot, and I'm looking forward to future updates and improvements for Alexa.

3. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2429; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

Yes, I'm glad I bought one too. I'm waiting for the next generation of the Echo (hopefully with improved speakers) so I can have that in my main room and can use the Dot in my bedroom. I'm also willing to look into the Cortana Harman Kardon system coming out, so long as it's not over $200-$250 range.

10. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Instead of Alexa coming with expensive speakers, why not just get a nice bookshelf sizes premium sound system and attach Alexa to it? I'm so glad I bought one for my room to use at night or in the loving room. So.i bought a 2 zone Yamaha amp, which I have tell with an app. On one zone I have an Energy Elite Sound Bar which had a wireless Sub. It sounds amazimg. It's normally $499. We found out about it because one of our customers use it. We had 2 in the office and we are t doing any. Re installs, so.i used on. Sounds awesome and now you can buy it for $250 or less because the company has discontinued them. I like a woman's voice that I have 100% control over too. Something you don't get with a real person. J/k

15. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2429; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

I have looked into getting some speakers to attach to the Dot, but you have to admit it is convenient to have just one plug to have to worry about and plus with the added speakers you have to make sure you have the space for the Dot plus speakers to sit there. So, for where I am going to be putting it, I would ideally want some all-in-one solution. However, if I don't feel like they've improved on the audio enough then I'll just do like you suggested and buy a pair of speakers to attach it to.

6. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

Amazing!! Giving Google Home a run for its money. May eventually buy Echo Dot Gen 2 or newer next Christmas. Having just bought a Google Home this Christmas so for now I am satisfy.

11. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Yes you should. I got the Dot because I already have more than enough speakers in the house. The kid uses a BOSE SoundTrack, sound at in the sleep room and home theatre in the tv room. Alexa plays so clear and the voice is pleasant. I like the some games. Me and the wife love the quizes. They just to short.

9. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

I have used plenty of assistant apps. Siri I is good, other than like most assistants, they don't always under the use of certain words in context, or still struggle with accents. Using Cortana in Windows 10 has been pretty descent. S-Voice is ok, it's just to slow. Faster on the watch, because part of the database is stored on the watch. Google - also very useful, but for searches. Don't like it controlling anything But none have been as pleasing to use vs Alexa. I like her voice better too. Alexa sounds natural, Siri kinda sorta sounds like a typical robot female. Plus the woman whose voice they use she does other ads on radio and tv, and the voice is annoying now. I hope Amazon co times to add useful things to it. They have a good thing going. I like turning on lights by asking Alexa. I have a new woman in the house. My wife is jealous too. Because my new woman can do things that she

2. ctdog4748

Posts: 797; Member since: Mar 05, 2016

Stupid questions from a non Echo owner but I'm thinking of getting one; 1) Can the Echo turn on/off your TV? Meaning cable box, TV itself, etc? 2) Does the Echo work with Apple Music? 3) Can multiple people use the Echo? For example, could I ask the Echo to turn on and off my TV, then can someone else use it for the same function when I'm not home? Yes these are stupid noob questions, but I'm totally new to the Echo/Google Home worlds, but very intrigued, and I thought it best to get feedback from real world users. Thanks in advance for any feedback!

4. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2429; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

1. From my understanding, if you have one of those Logitech Harmony remotes then you could set it up through the Activities in Alexa to do this. Alexa primarily uses other smart devices (like smart bulbs, remotes, etc.) to control the things you want to do. So, if I wanted my sprinkler system to turn on then I would need an Alexa-compatible sprinkler controller. 2. No, it only supports Amazon Music (which is a competitor to Apple Music), Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn. 3. Yes, it does not just go by your voice but can be used by anyone who says "Alexa" or I believe the alternate word is "Amazon".

7. ctdog4748

Posts: 797; Member since: Mar 05, 2016

Thank you! :)

12. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Doesn't directly support iTunes playback. However you can use it over BT with your IOS device, which is what I am doing sometimes with my iPad. You can also use a 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable from any device with a kack to the Dot.

13. boriqua2000

Posts: 258; Member since: Mar 11, 2009

Google home might be better but the echo dot cost $50. I have 2 of them. Best Christmas gift i could have asked for.

14. jacksmith21006

Posts: 68; Member since: Nov 03, 2015

Purchased the Echo when it launched and now had the Google Home for four weeks. Basically the Echo you use commands where you talk to the Google Home naturally. The Echo will handle some fuzziness but fundamentally they are variations to commands instead of fundamentally understanding what you are saying. So with the Echo you might do a quick Google search with a lyric to get a song name and then ask the Echo to play. With the Google Home you skip the Google search step. I am starting to learn a shorter english as the inference is so incredible with the Google Home. So say "hey google play sting gwen bottle on tv". Google figures out that I want to watch a video of Gwen Stefani and Sting singing message in a bottle on my TV. It then turns the TV on, sets the proper input, and the video starts playing. Our brains inference capabilities allow us to communicate with one another in a compressed manner. Information can be inferred versus being said. This is what Google is doing and for some (many?) things they can do better than a human. Maybe it is because I have an engineering background but the Google Home from a technology standpoint and what Google is doing just blows me away. The demo that most blows people away is the Google Photos with the Google Home. A bunch of people over for the holiday and someone asks how was your trip? You just say would you like to see a few pics? You just say "hey google show my photos of kenny in Maui". The TV turns itself on, input set, and photos of my son Kenny playing on the beach in Maui displays". Someone asks did you guys snorkel? I simply ask Google to show photos of Molokini and then photos of us snorkeling at Molokini and unfortunately pics of where I forced the kids to Kayak to Molokini from the hotel. Wind changed, almost died, fantastic Coast Guard picked us up and took us back to the hotel where we were yelled at because suppose to check in once an hour. Just what happens when wife does not join me and the kids on vacation. Then my oldest said I remember snorkeling there. Then you just say show Tommy snorkeling at Molokini. My wife had scanned and loaded 1000s of photos into Google Photos and to the shock of my oldest son photos both above and underwater display of him at Molokini. This is simply off the charts incredible from a technology standpoint. Might be a bias for me but simply wow! Basically one shutter click and nothing else and three months later you are in your family room without touching a single thing showing the photos. There is no more friction that can be removed.

16. -swagfox-

Posts: 45; Member since: Dec 01, 2016

My dot gen 2 has this function.

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