The Alexa team has always focused on finding ways to improve how customers interact with the world around them by using their voice. With all the challenges faced in 2020, this goal was particularly important. We moved quickly to deliver features and solutions that fit the current needs of our customers—many of whom spent more time than ever at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This included donating millions in devices globally to hospitals, schools, and community organizations that have been impacted by the pandemic. We are continually thinking through ways we can help our customers address their day-to-day challenges—no matter what those may be—and next year will be no different.

I’ve always felt that it is an incredible privilege that so many people have welcomed Alexa into their day-to-day lives. We’ve heard so many inspiring customer stories about the impact technology has had on their lives during this difficult year. We’re truly humbled by the ways customers use our service to make life a little easier. Some leaned on Alexa to keep the family on track with remote learning, set up Routines to thank the healthcare workers, and even learned the Chicken Dance step-by-step with Alexa. This year, Alexa also continued to expand internationally, reaching new customers in the Netherlands and Colombia. We’re now seeing customers interact with Alexa billions of times each week across the hundreds of millions of Alexa-enabled devices out there—including TVs, PCs, hearables, wearables, and other devices. Developers and manufacturers of all sizes have been successfully delighting customers by integrating Alexa with over 140,000 compatible smart home products. In fact, there are now over 750,000 registered developers creating new Alexa experiences in the form of skills.

As we exit 2020, we wanted to look back at some of the year’s milestone moments and share a snapshot of what’s ahead of us in 2021.

Alexa's 2020 year in review

In 2020, Alexa became more conversational. Next year, advances in artificial intelligence (AI) will make Alexa even more natural to interact with.  

Our goal is for customers to be able to interact with Alexa as naturally as speaking to another person. This year, we launched 31 new tools for developers to unlock more natural and immersive experiences for customers. This included Alexa Conversations, which helps developers create skills that are easier for customers to interact with using the phrases they prefer, in the order they prefer. Alexa Conversations has made it possible for customers to simply ask "Alexa, what should I read next?" and have Alexa suggest books they might enjoy based on their preferences. Customers can also ask for specific genres or authors, listen to book summaries, learn about reader ratings, hear editorial reviews, and more.

This year, we also previewed an advancement in natural turn-taking which will soon allow customers to engage with Alexa without repeating the wake word—just as you wouldn’t repeat the name of the person you’re speaking to. When customers ask Alexa to join a conversation, Alexa will begin to understand additional context such as when speech is directed at the device, when it’s not, and whether or not a reply is expected. Additionally, Alexa will become more natural to interact with by automatically correcting mistakes through customer feedback, and learning their preferences with interactive teaching—such as what the customer means when they say things like “Alexa, it’s cold in here.” Alexa also can now infer latent goals and what a customer may be trying to accomplish, allowing her to suggest relevant skills without the customer needing to know the skill name or repeat the same information across skills. These are all exciting steps forward in AI, and we’ll continue to see Alexa learn concepts over time to make interactions seamless.

In 2020, Alexa became even more proactive. In 2021, expect more of the same.

Alexa gained even more capabilities to proactively understand customers’ needs, whether they’re at home or away, and suggest an action to take on their behalf. Proactive Hunches allow Alexa to help with things like turning off a light they left on after going to bed. Additionally, if Alexa recognizes that a connected smart home device is off or unlocked, she lets the customer know and offers to fix it. Alexa Guard can now proactively notify customers if Alexa detects sounds like glass breaking, or alarms from carbon monoxide or smoke detectors in the home. The technology can also work with smart lights to make it look like someone is home when the customer is away. This year, we also introduced features like Energy Dashboard which enables Alexa to provide customers with details about their energy consumption to help them take action to reduce their carbon footprint.

We want our Alexa-enabled devices and services to create an experience that is proactive but not pushy, personal but also communal, both predictable and on-demand, and built with privacy at the foundation. In 2021, this will continue to be a big priority for us as we seek ways to ensure customers have the right balance of personalization and proactivity to power their unique Alexa experience.

In 2020, we added even more content. In 2021, Alexa will make it even easier to find what you’re most interested in. 

Customers are watching almost twice as much video content on their Echo Show compared to last year. Since July, they’ve watched millions of hours of video on their Echo Show devices, and when we see customers like something, we double down. That’s why we brought Netflix to Echo Show so customers now have access to content from an even larger range of video partners including Hulu, NBC, Prime Video, Food Network Kitchen, Red Bull TV, and Tubi. Customers can search and find just about any show or movie they’re looking for seamlessly. More cord cutters than ever before also turned to Alexa to discover a new show, find an old favorite, tune to a live sports channel, and more. In fact, Alexa usage was up 80% on Fire TV devices this year.

We recognize that every customer is different in terms of the features they want, what they engage with, and how they use Alexa. That’s why when we build new features—whether it’s for entertainment or communication, shopping, or health—we want the experience to be as seamless as possible. We recognize that customers are in search of more convenient ways to find and receive the things they need. This can be anything from shopping for household items, to discovering new music from an artist they love, or hearing about a new book from their favorite author. We want to inspire them and make every part of the Alexa journey easier—and this is something we’ll continue to invest in next year.

In 2020, Alexa provided customers with more ways to stay connected and organized at home. In 2021, this will continue to be a priority.

With more people staying at home, the idea of a “smart home” has grown to fit the unique needs of each Alexa customer. We’ve heard from many customers who are relying on Alexa to do things like keep their day-to-day organized with Routines and stay in touch with family and friends across the globe. For parents who are looking to help their kids stay on schedule while learning remotely, we created a new Alexa School Schedule Blueprint. This resource helps them easily build and manage their child’s weekly class schedule, provides, reminders, and more. This year, we also introduced features like AT&T calling to give customers more ways to stay connected, with the option to link their eligible mobile plans to make and receive AT&T calls through their compatible Alexa-enabled device. We also launched group calling to enable up to seven friends or family members to join a hands-free audio or video call with their supported Echo devices.

However, we know there’s a difference between staying connected and feeling connected. Features like the option to send a Virtual Hug can help, allowing our customers to say “Alexa, send a hug” to let their family and friends know they’re thinking of them. Just this month, we also announced several new features to bring multilingual households together with Alexa—including Live Translation for customers in the U.S. We also introduced the Care Hub to make it easier for customers to check on aging loved ones, while also enabling them to live independent lives. Going into the new year, we’ll continue to find ways to make it even simpler to stay in touch, manage day-to-day family activities, and emphasize the importance of wellness and mental health.

In 2020, we added even more privacy features. And we’re not done.

Customer trust is the most valuable asset we have. Privacy and security are foundational and central to keeping the trust of our customers, which is why they are core to how we build and design every Echo device, and every Alexa feature. From visual and audible indicators, to microphone and camera controls, to the ability to review and delete voice recordings—these are all intentional design decisions to ensure customers are in control of their privacy. We know our customers care deeply about this, as do we. It is our responsibility to keep their information safe and provide them with transparency and control. This year, we introduced several new features and controls to help make managing privacy even easier—including the ability to not save voice recordings, and new voice controls like “Alexa, review my privacy settings,” and “Alexa, delete everything I ever said.”

As more of our services and technologies are increasingly helping our customers, we will continue to focus on finding ways to make privacy and managing the Alexa experience even easier. This starts with ensuring the information we provide customers is clear and helps them feel confident in their understanding of how Alexa and Echo devices work.

In 2020, even more people interacted with Alexa on-the-go. We expect this trend to continue in 2021.

This year, Alexa became a go-to companion both in and outside the home. Our in-vehicle technology is making it easier for customers to go hands-free with Alexa wherever and whenever they need it. Customers can use Alexa to do things like stream music, listen to podcasts and audiobooks, make calls, add to their to-do lists, or simply start using a skill and pick it up again later. Voice technology shines in environments where people are focused on other tasks, and that goes for the car as much as the kitchen or dining room. We’ve made great progress in expanding access to Alexa in vehicles around the world, from embedding Alexa into vehicles from brands including Lamborghini, GM, Lucid, Volvo Trucks, and Nissan, to supporting the development of automotive accessories like iOttie with Alexa Built-in. We also announced new features like Pay for Gas and Auto Mode, enhancing what you can get done with Alexa from inside the car. Going into 2021, Alexa is making it easier than ever to navigate, stay connected, and be entertained in the vehicle, helping customers focus on the road ahead.

The best part is, it’s only Day One and we are so excited to continue the Alexa journey with you in 2021 and beyond.