CIKM’18, October 22-26, 2018, Torino, Italy
Alexa and Her Shopping Journey
Yoelle Maarek
Amazon Research
MATAM Park, Haifa 31905, Israel
Author Keywords
Voice-enabled intelligent assistants, such as Amazon Alexa,
Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana or Apple Siri, are on their
way to revolutionize the way humans interact with machines.
Their ubiquitous presence in our homes, offices, cars, etc. and
their ease of use have the potential to fully democratize access to
information and services, making them available to all, from
young children to senior citizens. To this effect, Alexa is offering
an open service available on tens of millions of devices that
enables developers to build voice-enabled applications in a
multitude of domains from home automation to entertainment.
Personal Intelligent Assistants; Voice search; Product search;
Product Question Answering;
Yoelle Maarek is a Vice President at Amazon, heading research for
Alexa Shopping. Prior to this, she was Vice President of Research
at Yahoo, guiding the research teams worldwide. Prior to Yahoo,
she was the first engineering hire of Google in Israel and opened
the Haifa engineering office. One of the most notable features her
team launched is Google Suggest, the query auto-completion
service. Before Google, she was with IBM Research, first in the US
then in Israel, holding a number of technical and management
positions, eventually becoming an IBM Distinguished Engineer.
She has been serving in various senior roles at leading academic
research conferences in the field of Web search and data mining,
such as SIGIR, The Web Conference (formerly WWW) and
WSDM. She is a member of the Technion Board of Governors and
was inducted as an ACM Fellow in 2013. Yoelle obtained a PhD in
Computer Science from the Technion, Israel in 1989, and holds an
engineering degree from the Ecole des Ponts et Chaussées, and a
DEA (graduate degree) in Computer Science from Paris VI
university, both awarded in 1985.
One domain that Alexa is pioneering in particular is the shopping
domain. Customers can ask Alexa to order garlic from their
kitchen while they are crushing their last clove, and they can as
easily ask her about the best surveillance camera. We see then that
in the shopping domain, Alexa addresses not only transactional
needs but also informational needs, thus covering two of the Web
search users’ needs defined by Broder in [1]. Yet the usual Web
search techniques cannot be applied “as is” in voice-driven
product discovery, since as demonstrated by Ingber et al. in [2],
users’ behavior differs significantly between Web and voice.
Consequently, for Alexa to naturally interact with users, and act
as the ultimate virtual shopping assistant, new methods need to be
invented and a number of open research challenges across various
domains need to be addressed. These domains include automatic
speech recognition, natural language understanding, search and
question answering, and most importantly, user experience, which
is critical in such a new and still evolving interaction paradigm. In
this talk, we will share with the audience our vision of an
intelligent shopping assistant escorting customers in their holistic
shopping journey. We will also discuss the involved technical
challenges that establish voice shopping as a new area of research
in the AI and search communities at large.
CCS Concepts/ACM Classifiers
• Information systems~Information retrieval • Information
systems~Question answering • Human-centered
computing~Personal digital assistants
1. A. Broder, A Taxonomy of Web Search, ACM SIGIR Forum,
36:2, Fall 2002.
2. A. Ingber, A. Lazerson, L. Lewin-Eytan, A. Libov & E.
Osherovich, The Challenges of Moving from Web to Voice in
Product Search, GLARE 2018, Turin, Italy, Oct 2018.
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CIKM’18, October 22-26, 2018, Torino, Italy.
© 2018 Copyright is held by the owner/author(s).
ACM ISBN 978-1-4503-6014-2/18/10.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3269206.3272923