retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

There is plenty of time to talk about Amazon's growth. (We'll get to its second quarter numbers - high on sales, low on profit - in our next story.)

Just now, I'd like to refer you to a New York Times story about a different kind of growth challenge facing the company.

In this case, Amazon is looking to hire a linguist with an Australian background, in a job that the Times suggests is "likely to involve research for Amazon’s voice recognition device, the Amazon Echo, which helps users check the weather, stream music and plan to-do lists through a personal assistant named Alexa."

The reason that Amazon is seeking such a linguist is that "the inability of some software to recognize accents is a well-documented frustration among people who speak English with a non-American accent," the Times writes, adding, "The effort by the Seattle-based Amazon to hire more linguists with backgrounds outside American English may point to an acknowledgment that such systems must adapt to all types of voices if they are to appeal to multiple markets."

It is the kind of 21st century problem that faces Amazon and any other company that wants to be relevant to people beyond US borders, and wants to be successful in a global economy.

I also want to point you to a YouTube video mentioned by the Times, and available above, from the BBC, which involves two Scotsmen in a voice-activated elevator. It has received more than a million views ... and it is an Eye-Opener that will seem resonant to many people.

Enjoy. & Happy Friday.

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