National Children’s Museum in Washington D.C. is undergoing a huge makeover right now. Founded in 1974, the Congressionally-designated museum has served the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia areas, in addition to tourists from all over the world, for more than 45 years.
In the spirit of our Amazon Future Engineer program, which aims to increase access to computer science education for millions of students from underserved communities, Amazon is excited to support the National Children’s Museum leading up to its grand re-opening late this fall. Amazon is providing a $250,000 gift to help fund the fabrication and installation of Data Science Alley – an exhibit making data literacy accessible and fun—as well as helping to provide free museum access for more than 200,000 visitors in part through the new Virginia Access Program supported by Amazon.
Beginning today, customers in the U.S. can ask Alexa to speak slower or speak faster, enabling Alexa to adapt to a diverse set of customer needs. Whether customers ask Alexa for the weather, the latest news, a sports update, about an upcoming event on their calendar, for a definition, and more, they can now choose from seven speeds – Alexa’s standard speaking rate, four faster speaking rates, and two slower speaking rates. Simply say “Alexa, speak slower,” or “Alexa, speak faster” to adjust Alexa’s speech to the preferred pace on any Alexa-enabled device. To reset Alexa’s speaking rate, simply say, “Alexa, speak at your default rate.”
Last October, Amazon announced a $15 minimum wage for all of our full-time, part-time, temporary, and seasonal employees across the U.S. Every one of our more than 350,000 hourly workers across the country got a pay raise. Today, the House of Representatives passed the Raise the Wage Act, voting to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. If turned into law, the Raise the Wage Act would significantly improve the lives of millions of American workers. This is a great first step by the House, but there is still work that needs to be done.
When we introduced Alexa in November 2014, she could do 13 things – she could tell you the weather, play music, answer basic questions, set timers, and catch you up on news headlines. Customers told us the experience was magical – it was a completely new and improved way to interact with technology. But our vision was to invent the Star Trek computer – and Alexa needed to know a lot more before this vision could be realized. We’ve been hard at work to teach Alexa even more – from new languages, to better natural language understanding, to adding new features that make her more useful. There’s still a long way to go, but we’re excited about Alexa’s progress, which wouldn’t be possible without the teams across Amazon who are behind the scenes solving some of the hardest AI challenges in the world.