Amazon's Alexa Voice Software has lacked the ability to engage in contextual conversations with users since it debuted with the Amazon Echo speaker, and this is an area where Google has pulled ahead once they launched Google Assistant and the Google Home, but it seems that Amazon has gone ahead and changed that with a new update to Alexa. Google Assistant can tell you about nearby bars when you're downtown, or tell you how old David Bowie was when he died, followed by if he had any heirs, and then what video games he worked on during his career, and now Alexa can too, with varying degrees of success, according to Reddit users. A silent update laid down the functionality, and now users of all sorts of Alexa devices, from the Echo Dot to the newest Fire tablets, are reporting sporadically that they've been able to play twenty questions with Alexa in rapid-fire format. One user even said that they can now add items to a shopping list rapid-fire, albeit having to activate Alexa before each item.
There were no real signs that Alexa was gearing up to get context support, though with the year drawing to a close along with Google Home's first month on the market, the pressure was on for Alexa to up its game or faced being caught up to by Google's solution, already ahead in a few ways. While Google Assistant already had an uphill battle ahead of it, specifically with Google Home being pitted against the Amazon Echo, this move by Amazon seals up a key hole in the roof that was letting Google rain on Amazon's parade.
While there had been no outward signs that this would happen, the writing has been on the wall for a while now, if you know where to look; for example, Amazon had been increasing their AI chops to rival Google's in recent years, and had been making attempts to woo their scores of Amazon Web Services developers with the power of Alexa. They had also been slowly building Alexa into an AI assistant powerhouse, boasting a ton of native functions, and integration with a veritable swarm of third parties. While this move will take some time to work out the bugs, one cannot deny that it puts the ball firmly and decisively in Google's court.