Amazon’s Alexa Builds NHL Vocabulary on Former Intel Execs’ Startup

·2 min read

Direct competition between tech’s biggest companies, including Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook, has driven the smart speaker and display market, with roughly 40% of Americans regularly using the devices in 2020. But Amazon’s Alexa team also has its eyes on the wide array of apps and sites that sports fans turn to for scores, stats, schedules and more.

“We want Alexa to be a go-to sports source for all types of fans,” an Amazon spokesperson said in an email. “Our vision is for Alexa to be able to answer any question about any sport, athlete or game/match.”

This year, North Carolina startup Pramana has helped the company expand its NHL offerings, adding contextual content to Alexa’s automated responses. Fans asking for the odds on a Hurricanes game might also be told the team’s record when they score three or more goals. Someone asking about a goalie’s game stats might also be told his historical record against that team or his playoff performance thus far. Pramana ingests NHL data through a partnership with the league and generates what it calls ‘statlines’ through a combination of automatically surfacing interesting stats and using natural language generation tech to turn them into sentences.

Founded in 2018 by former Intel executives, Pramana signed the NHL as its first user for its SHIFT tool, which uses natural-language processing to simplify querying large datasets. The league has used the platform to support its stats and info output, particularly around historical trends.

“A human can’t be researching and writing that copious amount of information to provide up-to-date context for every question—that doesn’t scale,” Pramana co-founder and CEO Corey Patton said. “[Amazon] saw a distinct need for more dynamic, robust responses around score and schedule questions.” Since rolling the improved responses out in January, Amazon has seen a double digit percentage increase in users asking NHL-related questions.

The Tampa Bay Lightning hold a two-game lead over the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Final with Game 5 scheduled for Wednesday. This offseason, Pramana plans to increase the types of information it automatically provides, as well as work to expand to other sports. The company is also offering a daily, human-edited Morning Skate update that it hopes to automate.

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