Amazon 'could charge £7.99 for next-generation Alexa capable of near-human-like conversations'

Amazon customers could be charged for a next-generation Alexa voice assistant. The popular voice-activated assistant is currently available at no cost to anyone who owns an Amazon Echo smart speaker, smart display, Fire TV set-top box or downloads the Alexa app.

But Amazon is said to be looking to charge a monthly subscription fee between $5-$10 (about £3.99-£7.99) for the upgraded Alexa. It would reportedly boast OpenAI's latest ChatGPT model, the upgraded Siri powered by Apple Intelligence and Google Gemini.

The tech firm is also planning a major revamp of its decade-old Alexa service to feature conversational generative AI. According to Reuters, Amazon is pushing engineers to complete work before an August deadline.

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Amazon usually unveils new versions of its Echo, Fire TV, and Kindle hardware in September, GB News reports. With an embedded AI, Amazon expects Alexa customers will ask it for shopping advice - similar to a text-based service on its website known as Rufus rolled out earlier this year.

Amazon offered a sneak peek into how large language models will enhance Alexa during its annual hardware event at its corporate headquarters in Arlington, Virginia last September. In a live demo on-stage, Amazon devices boss Dave Limp revealed how the latest version of the assistant would be more expressive in its responses.

For example, sounding happier when returning a positive score result for your favourite sports team. By saying "Let’s Chat" to Alexa, users can speak with the virtual helper without using the phrase "Alexa" every time, making each exchange feel more conversational and natural.

Customers could even pick up a conversation after a short break as Alexa will remember the context from the previous exchanges. Dave Limp insisted Alexa can understand inferences and more vague prompts in a way that he described will be 'like talking to a friend'.

The new Alexa can respond to the prompt "I’m cold" by turning on the heating in a connected home. Mr Limp - who has now left Amazon - said at the time: "You can now have a near-human-like conversations with Alexa."

A paid-for Alexa might be able to perform more intricate tasks, such as writing an email and ordering dinner for delivery from Uber Eats with a single prompt. It would offer better personalisation by learning your routine and preferences.

This could enhance Alexa's usefulness around the home. For example, the AI could learn that it is always asked to turn on a television for a favourite weekly show at the same time or start a fresh coffee pot after the morning alarm goes off — allowing it to automate tasks.

This is already possible with Alexa-compatible smart home devices using the Routines feature within the Alexa app on iPhone and Android. But everything currently needs to be programmed manually by the Amazon Echo owner.

A spokesperson for Amazon said: "We have already integrated generative AI into different components of Alexa, and are working hard on implementation at scale — in the over half a billion ambient, Alexa-enabled devices already in homes around the world—to enable even more proactive, personal, and trusted assistance for our customers."