You can ask Alexa many questions. Need the garage light on? Just ask Alexa to do it. Feel like listening to Daft Punk suddenly? Easy Peasy, Ask Alexa. Alexa is a household name now, but haaaaaaave you met “Rohit Prasad”? Rohit is an Indian origin engineer responsible for conception of Alexa. He had been working since last 5 years to bring Alexa to life, along with fellow engineer Toni Reid. While Rohit handled the scientific and technology aspect of Alexa, Reid handled the consumer experience area.
The Star Trek inspired Indian Techie has made his name to many lists. Rohit Prasad ranks 15 on Recode’s list of 100 people in tech, business and media who mattered in 2017. He joined the big leagues like Jeff Bezos, Susan Fowler, Mark Zuckberberg and the likes by making it to the list. Prasad ranks 9th in Fast Company’s 100 most creative people in business on grounds of making Alexa a “category-defining consumer experience”.
Rohit Prasad joined Amazon in 2013 to use his skills of speech recognition, natural language understanding and machine learning in general, which he acquired at an R&D arm of defence company Raytheon – BBN Technologies. In 2016 he was appointed as the head scientist of Alexa Artificial Intelligence.
“The journey has been exciting. If you look at five years back, talking to a device from a distance, in the midst of a lot of noise, was just science fiction; We grew up in the Star Trek era, that was the inspiration for us.”
– Rohit Prasad
According the Jharkhand born engineer even touch is inefficient. There’s too many steps for getting a simple thing (who would’ve thought). You can just ask Alexa to open curtains. Prasad felt there were four challenges
- The system must recognise speech.
- Once it recognizes speech, it must make sense of the words.
- It must have enough resources to implement the user’s command.
- The capabilities have to get better each day, understand the context of the user to give the best outcome.
Alexa’s development just hastened as Amazon allowed third-party developers to intervene and build the skills of the Artificial Intelligence. Rohit says in his telephonic interview with The Times of India, that bringing Alexa to India has been the most daunting. People tend to ask questions in mixed languages like “Alexa, Weather kya hai?” Also, “Achcha” sounds a lot like Alexa to Alexa, which causes her to wake up. There was a lot to learn for this Virtual Assistant here in India, but the creator is more than happy with the way Alexa speaks, with a neutral accent.
His current focus is to improve Alexa’s core intelligence, enable her to deal with ambiguous commands and to accomplish complex tasks – like planning a vacation. “Then it will be a lot more human like,” he says.