Amazon to Set Up Alexa Development in Israel

U.S. company on hiring spree for 100 scientists, engineers and project managers

Amazon's Alexa artificial intelligence device, May 17, 2017.
Elaine Thompson/AP

Confirming months of speculation following a visit by CEO Jeff Bezos, Amazon announced on Monday it was establishing two research and development centers in Israel dedicated to developing its Alexa Shopping platform.

The company said it will be hiring about 100 scientists, engineers and project managers to work in a new group it is forming for Alexa, its personal assistant service, which among other things enables users to make purchases through voice commands in natural language.

“With the new group, Amazon is deepening its commitment to Israel and bringing a new strategic mission to the strong talent pool in Israel,” the company said in a statement. “This opportunity will enable scientists and engineers to work at the forefront of technology in the field of [internet] search, natural language understanding and machine learning with a consumer focus.”

Rumors about a major expansion of Amazon’s operations in Israel have been flying since Bezos visited Israel last December. At the time TheMarker reported that the company planned to hire hundreds of new employees for a planned Haifa R&D center over the next few years. More recently the company leased space in the Azrieli building in Tel Aviv’s Sarona complex.

Amazon first launched its Israel operations five years ago with a sales office for the Amazon Web Services unit, which provides on-demand cloud computing platforms to people, companies and governments. In January 2015, it bought the Israeli startup Annapurna Labs for a reported $350 million to $400 million.

The company, which had developed a chip that enables AWS servers to operate more efficiently, became an R&D center for the unit and today employs more than 200 people.

Meanwhile, over the last year, Amazon has begun posting more and more job openings on the LinkedIn website, many for jobs relating to AWS and Amazon Go, a high-tech bricks-and-mortar grocery store.

“Voice is the future,” an Amazon spokesperson said when asked about the vision guiding the company’s new R&D center. “We believe the voice will dramatically improve the way people interact with technology The goal is for people to say naturally what they need, and Alexa will find them the best offer.“