Amazon is expanding its offices around the world. Amazon is expanding its offices around the world. Amazon is expanding its offices around the world. (Photo: John MacDougall / AFP/Getty Images)

We know where Amazon is building next

While the tech giant searches for a new home in the U.S., it is already planning two new R&D centers in Israel.

This summer, Amazon announced it would build a second headquarters somewhere in North America. That news set off a parlor game du jour, with everyone weighing in on what city the tech giant would pick. Would it be Atlanta, Boston, Denver? Perhaps a small college town in Texas? Bringing with it jobs and infrastructure, the high-stakes move is sure to be a boon for whichever city gets chosen. One Georgia town made news this week when it offered to change its name to Amazon.

While the quest for a new headquarters in the U.S. continues, it seems Amazon has made some decisions on another front. The Seattle-based e-retailer will be opening two R&D centers in Israel – one will be in Tel Aviv and the other in Haifa. The labs, which will employ about 100 engineers, will work exclusively on the company’s Alexa voice-operated device.

In the video below, you can meet some of the people who already work on the Alexa team:

So what is Alexa? It's an intelligent personal assistant that's capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and offering weather, traffic and other real-time information. The technology is starting to move beyond those basic tasks and can now also control several smart devices using itself as a home automation system. (Alexa, turn the air conditioning off!)

With its latest move, Amazon is betting big on Israel. In addition to the two new R&D centers, it acquired an Israeli startup called Annapurna Labs in 2015. That company makes computer hardware, specifically the kind used in cloud services, which has become one of the biggest drivers of Amazon's success. That was welcome news for many Israeli-based tech companies like Moovit, GetTaxi, Wix, Viber and Glide that use Amazon's web services to help run their businesses.

An Amazon Web Services booth at a trade show in Las Vegas earlier this year. An Amazon Web Services booth at a trade show in Las Vegas. (Photo: Konstantin Sutyagin / Shutterstock)

Amazon has been rapidly growing its business beyond online retailing – and its Amazon Alexa device is just one example. In recent years, the company has expanded into the increasingly crowded streaming content space with original programming. It's also begun offering deliveries of fresh groceries in some cities and, this summer, completed an acquisition of Whole Foods Market.

Amazon joins other Silicon Valley firms like Apple, Intel, Facebook and Google that have been expanding their presence in the Mediterranean country, dubbed the startup nation.

“We welcome Amazon’s continued investment in the Israeli technology community,” said Israel's Chief Scientist Avi Hasson. “Having Amazon here is an important and valuable asset for Israel as we continue to build the country into a world leading center for technology development.”

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