Amazon goes big on AI in Boston

Amazon has announced it will be hiring another 2,000 people to expand its Boston Tech Hub, the office where its artificial intelligence work is centred.

Aside from being the world’s biggest eCommerce site and the most successful cloud business, as well as owning a steadily growing content platform, with Alexa the firm also plans on dominating the virtual assistant space. Already employing 1,200 engineers in its Boston Tech Hub, Amazon will now hire an additional 2,000 people to work in areas such as machine learning, speech science, cloud computing, and robotics.

“Amazon is excited to create 2,000 more jobs in greater Boston,” said Rohit Prasad, Head Scientist of Amazon Alexa. “In just a few years, we’ve grown from a handful of software developers and scientists to a team of more than 1,200, inventing new capabilities and products on behalf of millions of customers around the world. Thank you to all our partners across the city and the state for welcoming us, helping us create these thousands of new jobs, and contributing to the already vibrant tech industry in the area.”

The engineers based in the Boston area primarily focus on Alexa, Amazon Web Services, and Audible. Hiring AI engineers will have an impact in multiple areas of the Amazon business, though Alexa is the most obvious beneficiary. While adoption of virtual assistants is still very low, it has been growing healthily, normalising the idea for the masses. For anyone who makes money through the internet, this is an exciting prospect.

Aside from the most obvious way Amazon could make money through Alexa, ordering items from the eCommerce platform, the team has been developing new areas. Amazon’s $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods is a prime example. Building digital shopping lists before organizing a deliver is one area which could grow once the voice interface has been normalized, though there are many others.

Looking at the battle for the living, Amazon is in the lead as it stands, though it cannot get complacent. Yes, it does have more physical devices on the market than anyone else, but the most effective virtual assistant will win out in this segment. Google has a foothold in the speaker market also, and a wealth of AI riches to make use of. For Amazon to maintain its position at the top of the rankings it will have to prove itself capable of developing more effective algorithms than Google; not a simple task. Hiring an additional 2,000 people will certainly help.

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