Save 50%—more than $175—on a subscription during our 9th Anniversary celebrationAct Now

Robots running software from Vicarious. Photo by Vicarious

Amazon, Startups See Surge in Demand for Automation Tech Amid Pandemic

Photo: Robots running software from Vicarious. Photo by Vicarious

Earlier this month, after the Philippines government ordered a lockdown of its capital city to combat the coronavirus, many of the country’s vast network of call centers—which handle customer service for airlines, banks and other companies—ground to a halt. 

In the days since, Amazon has seen a huge swell in sales inquiries for a cloud-based call center service, Connect, which uses the artificial intelligence technology behind the company’s Alexa digital assistant to automate tasks typically handled by humans, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. The companies contacting Amazon include everyone from airlines struggling to respond to customers canceling reservations to health care providers that need help answering questions about medical bills, the person said. The uptick in inquiries, which hasn’t been previously reported, is especially noteworthy because Amazon’s call center service has struggled with slow sales in the past. 

Get access to exclusive coverage
Read deeply reported stories from the largest newsroom in tech.
Latest Articles
 
Exclusive startups crypto
Crypto and AI-Focused Sequoia Partner Is Leaving the Firm
Sequoia Capital partner Divya Gupta is leaving the firm just weeks after the storied venture capital firm apologized to limited partners about its $214 million investment in the now-bankrupt crypto exchange FTX. Gupta worked on seed- and early-stage investments in cryptocurrency and artificial intelligence at Sequoia, and has worked at the firm for under a year. A Sequoia spokesperson said he...
Latest Briefs
 
U.S. National Security Deal on TikTok Held Up on Security Concerns
Pinterest Adds Elliott Management Executive to its Board
BuzzFeed Cuts 12% of Workforce
Stay in the know
Receive a summary of the day's top tech news—distilled into one email.
Access on the go
View stories on our mobile app and tune into our weekly podcast.
Join live video Q&A’s
Deep-dive into topics like startups and autonomous vehicles with our top reporters and other executives.
Enjoy a clutter-free experience
Read without any banner ads.
startups venture capital
Six Investors Chasing Debt Deals During the Downturn
With equity investors dialing back and public markets frozen over, startups that need to raise money are short of options.
The 1:1 policy
A Billionaire Couple Goes for Broke: How John and Laura Arnold Plan to Give It All Away
On Election Day, John and Laura Arnold found themselves deep in the lion’s den: a few blocks from the White House, working from the new Washington D.C.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Photo by Bloomberg
Exclusive microsoft
Microsoft Eyes ‘Super App’ to Break Apple and Google’s Hold on Mobile Search
Microsoft recently considered building a “super app” that could combine shopping, messaging, web search, news feeds and other services in a one-stop smartphone app, in what would be an ambitious move by the software giant to expand further into consumer services, according to people with direct knowledge of the discussions.
Illustration by Josh Brill.
Opinion economy
A Raise May Be Out of the Question, but You Do Have Other Options
Layoffs have swept through the tech industry (and more may be on the horizon ), flooding the job market with qualified candidates—just like you—as even the large companies are fighting to stay afloat.
Animation by Clark Miller
The Big Read
The Passion of Cathie Wood: Why the ‘Wackiest Portfolio Manager on Earth’ Isn’t Losing Faith
Cathie Wood was sitting in a phone booth in the New York office of Ark Invest when she heard Tasha Keeney, one of the firm’s analysts, let out a scream—“a happy scream,” Wood recalled.
Photo by Bloomberg.
Exclusive
Marc Lore’s Kitchen on Wheels Startup Cuts Staff, Dials Back Delivery Ambitions
Wonder, a mobile kitchen and food-delivery startup led by Jet.com founder Marc Lore, has laid off 7% of its workforce, a company spokesperson said, as it attempts to overhaul its business.