Amazon Alexa chief: Saturday Night Live spoof of Echo speaker is actually ‘kind of spot on’

When Saturday Night Live spoofed Amazon’s Echo smart speaker with a version for the “Greatest Generation,” it turns out they might have been on to something.

In the parody commercial, “Echo Silver” reassures some “people of a certain age” that neighborhood youths are just playing and aren’t up to no good, tells someone else where she put her phone and gives the digital equivalent of a smile and nod to a long, rambling story.

The commercial elicited plenty of laughs, even from the company itself. But there was also a grain of truth to it, showing where Amazon wants to eventually take Alexa, acknowledged Toni Reid, Amazon’s vice president of Alexa and Echo, during a recent interview at the 2017 GeekWire Summit.

“Certainly our vision is to be more human-like,” Reid said. “That’s what we aspire to is to behave as a human would in an interaction, and the Echo Silver did exactly that, so it was kind of spot on.”

In fact, one of the new models of the second generation Echo even looks a bit like the fictional device.

Amazon Echo
Amazon Echo in oak finish, left, and “Saturday Night Live’s” version, the Echo Silver. (Amazon, NBC Images)

The possibility of Echo Silver having exasperated conversations with customers is still a ways off. Reid said we are still in the early days of the machine learning and artificial intelligence technology needed to pull off such interactions. But it seems that Amazon is working on it.

Until the technology catches up, Amazon does offer a lot of ways to personalize devices and you can already see some pieces of Alexa’s personality coming out. She has a favorite basketball team and likes to break into song occasionally.

Watch Toni Reid’s full GeekWire Summit conversation with Nick Wingfield of the New York Times above.